Background: Can a Western Government wipe out an honest business with red tape? (What a naive question…)
Matt and Janet spoke out as skeptics in May 2007 and their life savings and business are now at grave risk as they fight off bankruptcy. What has undone them is not the financial crisis, or any failure of their business, but impossible clauses and conditions. Indeed they were so profitable in 2007 they were turning away business. They’ve broken no laws, are popular with their nearest neighbors, 6000 odour tests showed there was little problem in the town, and the Thompsons complied with every departmental request to manage the farm. Yet licensing changes and new conditions were so onerous, that banks won’t loan money against the license (it’s not much of a licence). Clause A1 means their licence can be whipped away again at any time if they “offend” anyone anywhere or interfere with their “health and comfort”. How do we measure that — Let the loudest complainer win. (If complaints about “comfort” can shut down a business, there go the wind farms…. Why is there one rule for one business, but not for all?) Even the department (DEC) admits it broke it’s own normal procedures and treated them unfairly. The operations manager of Narrogin Beef committed suicide, and the Thompsons have been reduced to the last thread as they pin their hopes on the difficult task of suing the Western Australian Department of Environment and Conservation in the Federal Court.
D-Day on the decision in the Federal Court is Friday April 1. Though if they win, it means they have the right to sue the Department, not that past injustices will be righted on the spot. This is a long road ahead.
Matt and Janet write:
“Thanks to all who have supported us in so many ways. We have managed to stay on our property and fight for our rights legally since this all came to a head last September.
The legal process is very difficult, expensive, and cumbersome. However, we have managed to fight off a series of minor skirmishes and will finally be presenting the main body of our case for the first time before a federal court Judge in Perth on Friday April 1. This hearing will not be the end, but it will set important directions.
Joshua Forrester of Ranger Legal in Perth, and Peter King QSC Sydney are acting on our behalf.
The bottom line is that when all this went public on the sites last year we had been asked by the receivers to prepare to leave by October 15. The public outcry and the actions of our solicitors have so far prevented the other side from gaining possession and kicking us out. However, we have been unable to earn income by operating our facility in the meantime while the case is pending for legal reasons.
Our legal team Peter King and Joshua Forrester seem happy with our case now. These cases require a tremendous amount of tedious work to develop and we have been very fortunate that Joshua has found a way to make an heroic effort on our behalf. The state solicitor’s office is still finding all kinds of spurious things wrong with our claims rather than the substance of our case. They still claim DEC can’t be sued because they aren’t an entity, and don’t believe the state can be sued under the Trade Practices Act, as our case alleges. Our legal team thinks they can, and Janet and I are still determined to get the facts and substance of our case heard in court.”
Matt and Janet used a little of the donations late last year to keep food on the table and electricity on and do the absolute bare minimum to keep their household running. Things are breaking on the farm (and given the legal situation, with receivers in, mostly they have to stay broken for the time being.)
At the moment Joshua’s tireless legal work is keeping the family on the farm (though still a cow-less farm), and the Thompsons want to give him something to help him keep going. Matt and Janet are doing as much legal work of their own that they can do.
I’m told there was a useful precedent set in December with another case which gives them hope that their case against the DEC has a decent chance. The DEC have sent a representative to the Thompson’s local State legal cases (that the bank brought against the farm) and the representative apparently looks worried, Janet tells me, and it’s all very odd, because the case of a farm versus a bank is none of DEC’s business. The DEC case was a federal case, and not in the local courts.
Ron Manners and Mannkal, the Perth based libertarian foundation has picked up the Thompsons case and run an information evening here in Perth which attracted a supportive crowd, though of course, we are all fighting the big-tax as well…
PS: Yes, it is the same Janet Thompson who volunteered to organize the anti-tax rally in Perth. As if looking after her four young children and monster legal case were not enough. This woman (this couple) just keep on giving.