JoNova

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Farmers fighting for a fair go. Updates on The Thompsons and Peter Spencer

Matt and Janet Thompson

Matt and Janet Thompson

They came from the USA expecting to get a fair go. They broke no law, ran a profitable business, spoke out as skeptics and now stand to lose everything.

It’s not one law for all anymore, it’s 33 subclauses on your license because you’re not politically correct. It’s sudden changes to regulatory conditions that cost a family business millions. Bureaucrats can break a popular profitable business. What has happened to The Thompsons is something I didn’t think was possible in Australia. I thought we elected the people who make the rules. I thought our media would cover a scandal. How naive of me.

A Federal Court judge has just ruled that these Family Farmers can’t even sue the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) of Western Australia even though their license conditions were suddenly changed for no measureable, auditable reason. The decision is not good news, but Matt and Janet are not giving up. They will appeal the decision.

We can’t let Western Civilization be engulfed by bureaucratic fiefdoms. Matt and Janet could have taken the easier road and given up but they’re determined not to be beaten by the system, and if they can win, they help all of us.

Matt and Janet are fighting for all Australians. If they lose, we all lose.

Pop in to this thread and send a message of support to Matt and Janet in the comments. It can be a lonely road if you are the small guy battling the establishment. We need more people like the Thompsons.

The Background and Details

From Matt and Janet Thompson, a Federal Court judge has just ruled that they can’t sue the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) of Western Australia on behalf of their family-owned company, Narrogin Beef Producers.

After Matt  spoke out as a climate skeptic at a greenhouse gas reporting meeting in May 2007 the DEC  changed their farming license adding new impossible conditions which no bank would loan against. They had already signed contracts based on the previous license, and the newly reduced head-count drove them to the verge of bankruptcy. DEC even admits it broke it’s own rules. Apparently the Thompsons beef-feedlot didn’t smell right, even though Matt and Janet did everything the department suggested (and more), their closest neighbours wrote letters of support (wanting the farm to grow), 900 townfolk signed a petition for them, 6000 odour tests showed there was no problem, and wait for it, their farm was right next to a piggery which had run for 28 years. But 21 verified complaints from people who wanted to subdivide land and a number of other unchecked, not publicly listed, complaints about odours that can’t be measured were enough to close them down. And you thought Rule of Law applied in Australia? Not so, if you don’t butter up, pander, bow and obey the politically correct dictums set by unelected bureaucrats and the covert green-police, you too could be subject to random arbitrary license changes that insist your business must not offend anyone anywhere (and especially not your Green land-developing neighbours).

Should you ever be unlucky enough to be the small guy standing up to the establishment, don’t expect your tax dollars paid to the ABC will help you highlight the injustice and expose the corruption. It’s their ABC after all. And where is that supposed bastion of news: The West Australian?  They don’t seem to be in a hurry to let the citizens of Western Australia know how their Department of Environment play kingmakers.

Matt writes today:

Justice Barker ruled in the Federal Court of WA and dismissed our request for leave to file our case against DEC.  We will now soon face NAB’s application for possession of all of our assets in the WA Supreme Court.

In making his ruling Justice Barker referred to a decision in the Federal Court in Spencer v. Commonwealth in which the lower court ruled that Peter had no arguable case.  This is remarkable because it ignores the fact that the High Court later overturned this ruling.  There are several other points in Justice Barker’s ruling in which we believe Justice Barker ignored important evidence in making his decision.

Janet and I have decided to stay and fight it for all it’s worth.  We believe that we have been treated unfairly, and that countless others have as well.  Quitting at this point only empowers bullies, and leaves them unencumbered in their power to hurt others.

We will be appealing Justice Barker’s decision in the Federal Court, and defending NAB’s application against us in the WA Supreme Court.  Although this battle is not something we would have chosen for ourselves, it is what life handed us; and we are determined to do the best we can with it.

They asked to thank everyone who supported them last year, and believe they would not have been able to stay at their farm if it had not been for the help and support of readers around the world, and especially at Watts Up. With a big thank you to their lawyers Joshua Forrester (Ranger Legal, Perth) and Peter King (Queens Square Chambers, Sydney).

All the information about the Thompsons can be found at this source page, or look through all these posts tagged “Thompsons”.

Donations can be made here.

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Good news from Peter Spencer’s Campaign

Peter Spencer

Peter Spencer bought a farm south of Canberra in the early 1980′s. In the mid 1990′s new laws rolled into action that prevented land clearing. So even though the land belonged to him, Peter could no longer clear the regrowth. Eighty percent of what he paid for was effectively confiscated for the carbon credits it accrued. He received nothing in return and there was no way out. He couldn’t sell the property — who would buy a piece of land they have no right to use? But Peter still had a mortgage to pay, and no way of earning the money to do it. In late 2010, his last legal avenue was exhausted, and the sherriff gained a warrant to take the farm off him. That was the final straw… and having already spent 200 days in court,  just trying to get his case heard, Peter went on a hunger strike that lasted 52 days.  I wrote about Peter Spencer in The CommonFascism of Australia.

News today from Just Grounds Community:

For four years, the approach taken by the Australian Government Solicitor (for the Commonwealth) has been to deny the existence of any documents showing the existence of informal agreements between the Commonwealth and the Sates (relating to sequestration of carbon and land use change laws and measures) before and after the Kyoto meeting of the UNFCCC in 1997. Rather, counsel for the Commonwealth have repeatedly claimed that Mr Spencer was on a “fishing expedition” and have pulled every delay and denial tactic possible to prevent Spencer v Commonwealth of Australia going to trial. However, last week there was a 180 degree about face, as the Australian Government Solicitor and the Crown Solicitor for the New South Wales Government NSW changed tack from bluff and denial to negotiation. Finally, the Government law teams are complying with the High Court of Australia’s judgment last September overruling the Federal Court’s previous decision regarding the matter; and in the light of Spencer’s meticulous research and his filing for categories of (internal Government) documents sought.

Peter Spencer is very happy that finally he and his legal team have their “foot in the door”. Although the opposing legal teams have not yet handed over everything sought, it’s been left open to ask the Court for additional discovery if required.

Spencer supporters are also very much heartened by news that there is a great deal of discussion in the new NSW parliament in recognition of the strength of Spencer’s legal position. Even more important, there is recognition and discussion about the moral case implicit in the State taking from private landholders,

My posts on Peter Spencer are here.

UPDATE: I’ve changed the title to make it more descriptive for new people to the site. It was “Breaking: Thompsons lose right to sue DEC; but Spencer gets a green light”

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36 comments to Farmers fighting for a fair go. Updates on The Thompsons and Peter Spencer

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    Roy Hogue

    From half a world away: Good luck Matt and Janet as you embark on yet another trial. May your determination never wane and finally see you through to winning your case.


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    Phillip Bratby

    Keep fighting, the small man can win. See the precedent set by Mike and Barbara Hulme here in the UK at http://www.denbrookvalley.co.uk/ and the BBC programme at http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/tv/2011/05/windfarm-wars.shtml#comments


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    pattoh

    You would have to speculate on where to go “prospecting” with a FOI requests for communications.

    Politicians can always try to point the finger at there advisors. However they have a habbit of subjectively choosing & handsomely rewarding them ( causing them to get cocky & breed).

    I imagine when things get desperate & go pearshaped & retrospective arse covering is the order of the day, the odd nugget of pure gold would fall by the wayside.

    Given the antics of the Federal Government/Rainbow Coalition, BoM/CSIRO & the ABC/SBS, there must be some “Welcome Strangers” out there.


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    Bulldust

    I still can’t believe the Thompsons have been handled this way. Clearly something is very much awry on the DEC side, but I doubt that they will ever admit it.

    I heard of a similar situation in an industrial estate where land that had been previously cleared, and was allowed to revegetate is now more difficult to clear because DEC considers it special for some reason or another. I can’t get into the specific details, but that company now has a battle with DEC trying to get access to their land for industrial purposes, in an industrial estate.

    DEC will shift the goalposts over time, and therein lies the risk to business owners. This is one way in which State Agreements (reserved for larger, more complex projects) come in useful. They put obligations on both the company and the state to facilitate the project. Most have a clause that says the state cannot retrospectivel introduce legislation that jeopardises the project. These only apply to massive (generally multi-billion dollar) projects, so it is the small operators that have to live with the ever-changing laws of the land.

    I trust that DEC has been served with some FOI’s by now?

    I certainly hope that the Thompsons get their win in time and that DEC adjusts their world view to be more rational, and all the strength the Thompsons need to achieve that result.


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    Ross

    I see these stupid actions involve some sort connection with the Kyoto agreement. If, as it now looks likely, Kyoto is “dead and buried” next year , what happens then?


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    pat

    sorry to hear the bad news re the thompsons but glad to hear the good news re spencer. there is so much at stake in both cases and the MSM’s silence says all we need to know about their ethics.

    a tradie (who, like many, only buys the papers for the sports pages – pity) left a murdoch sunday mail and a murdoch courier mail at my place yesterday and i have never seen so much pro-AGW garbage printed of so many felled trees in my life. a columnist berates gillard and abbott for being without vision to do anything about AGW. a report on a survey showing queenslanders have the common sense to know their recent weather were part of a cyclical wet season or random events with only 10 percent “thinking” they were caused by manmade climate change, and with 79 percent againsts a carbon tax is spun as “carbon tax remains hard sell”.

    btw speaking of matters legal or illegal, here’s one to watch:

    6 June: Airwise: Reuters: IATA Warns EU Over ‘Illegal’ Carbon Plan
    Global airlines warned the European Union of the risks of a possible trade dispute over ‘illegal’ plans to charge the industry for emissions, saying they echoed environmental failures of the past.

    Comments from the International Air Transport Association stepped up a war of words as European Climate Commissioner Connie Hedegaard refused to back down over EU plans to make airlines buy permits for carbon emissions above a certain level.

    “She would do well to listen to the growing chorus of countries strongly opposed to an illegal extraterritorial scheme,” IATA director general Giovanni Bisignani said.
    “The last thing that we want to see is a trade war. Chinese delegates were in Brussels recently; many other countries have formally expressed concerns,” he said.
    Industry and diplomatic sources have said China threatened retaliation against European airlines and plane maker Airbus if the EU goes ahead with its plans.
    “We have to absolutely avoid retaliation because the risk of retaliation for a Europe that is in survival mode would be the kiss of death,” Bisignani said.
    “I hope that, once Europe starts receiving this kind of strong message, they would understand that you cannot go on with an illegal scheme. This is illegal,” he added…
    http://news.airwise.com/story/view/1307336984.html


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    Speedy

    Doesn’t the term “Natural Justice” exist any more? This is plain wrong!


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    Ralph Prestage

    Whilst our young soldiers are being killed in Afghanistan and numerous other parts of the world to establish DEMOCRACY our own citizens are denied this and any form of justice. We are now subject to a government dictatorship using DEC and Dept of Planning whose bureacrats have been infiltrated by the Greens party. It is convenient for the blinkered Judges to use the outdated Spencer case which is now as obsolete as my old ipod. Every situation has its own unique circumstances and must be examined. Surely this is the purpose of a democratic system.


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    Thanks for the comments and ongoing support. Geez, we’re thankful for so many good people…We mustn’t lose sight of that.

    I just got back from town. Listening to the radio (ABC…why do I do that to myself??), I thought, “We’re actually LIVING Atlas Shrugged!” (And for so long I thought she’d exaggerated the story.)

    I heard Wayne Swan speak of the “climate change deniers” and, in the context of Australia taking action before other countries, Swan said that this Productivity Commission report will take away that last bastion for those (did he call us?) swindlers. I was so shocked — it might have been a different word, but the meaning was atrocious.

    We must all do our bit to fight the attacks on freedom. On Saturday morning (after our Friday hearing) I felt like telling the world to go to hell and going to live somewhere in complete isolation with my family. But what kind of future does that open up for our children? If we walk away now, the bullies will have won. Someone needs to stand up to them. It might as well be us….with the continued help of Forrester and King, who are committed to the long-haul fight as well, and of the many good people like you who understand what is at stake.

    Of course, we thank you. But I think your children and grand children and those beyond will thank you, too. With all of us together, we must make a positive difference.

    Cheers,
    Janet


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    Ferdinand

    I read recently that Australia’s population is in need of more immigrants. I’m afraid it won’t help their cause if they treat their own folk like this.


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    Ian Hill

    Keep it going Janet and Matt. Always thinking of you!

    A short while ago I sent an email to six SA Federal MPs about the Say Yes Flyer, together with my own version of it! :)


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    Marcia

    Australia is a police type dictatorship run by Lawyers with very few individual freedoms left. I see very little hope for that country as a liveable country if it keeps going on this track


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    Adam Gallon

    15 of those dollar things coming the Thompson’s way from me. Something stinks, but it’s not any animal effluent!


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    observa

    I have emailed my national industry association on a ‘Matter of National Importance’ as follows-

    As a member of HIA and a self-employed businessman of some 25 years I have been following the plight of the Thompsons in WA with some considerable dismay. Their plight at present and the events leading up to it are well summarised here- [link to current post]

    As far as I’m concerned their plight is of far greater significance to us all in business than just being written off as tough luck by some remote individuals and as such I hereby request my Industry body give serious consideration to a substantial donation for the legal challenge by the Thompsons in the interests of us all in business. As far as I am concerned the treatment the Thompsons have received at the hands of an unelected bureaucracy, drunk with their own self-righteousness and power, is the thin edge of the wedge for us all. I therefore urge you and every industry body you can summon to get behind the Thompson’s now.


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    observa

    “On Saturday morning (after our Friday hearing) I felt like telling the world to go to hell and going to live somewhere in complete isolation with my family.” Bear up Janet as you may yet have a powerful ally in the HIA and I’ll keep you posted as to their response bearing in mind ‘our’ attitude toward a CO2 tax enunciated here-
    http://hia.com.au/hia/news/article/MR/National/EC/Carbon%20Taxes%20New%20Housing%20and%20Aussie%20Jobs.aspx
    I’ll be very interested to see if HIA take up the cudgel officially. However they may take another tack and publicise your plight via a call to members to help. You need to bear in mind that the HIA represents over 44000 members, mostly small family businesses like yourselves and if they all averaged just $10 each that would lighten the load somewhat. Naturally I have taken the liberty of presuming a few of us might be on holiday, etc and inadvertently miss their calling. ‘In God we trust’ eh?


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    Jim

    Australia as a democracy is finished, it has become a totalitarian regime.

    Absolutely fabulous country, brilliant intelligent people, visited a few times, but I never could get over how over regulated the country was relative to the persception marketed overseas.

    That detestable Gillard PM is typical of how regimes are built, she promised no carbon taxes to the electorate during her election campaign and as soon as she came into office she has made it her sole mission to destroy the country by introducing carbon taxes. That cow should be sent back to Wales to work down the mines.

    Yes, Australians are feisty and amiable people on the whole, but the reason the country is being destroyed is because their a national indifference to politics and the government they elect.

    Best of luck to Matt and Janet but I don’t think justice will prevail. Scartch the surface of the gloss of the Australian perception and you quickly uncover a seedy under belly of cronyism and corruption.


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    Norfolk Dumpling

    I don’t often post on JoNova because, remarkably in this day and age, she has learnt and qualified in the science and has a technical understanding of that about which she writes; I appreciate that. She also sees through the political muddy treacle and dirty “green” religions of the technically ignorant to what is actually best for Mankind.
    Consequently, through her blog, I would like to wish Matt and Janet Thompson and Peter Spencer every success with their lonely “little” person campaigns fighting for individual truths and ‘rights to life’ against politicised undemocratic Government departments and technically unskilled Judiciary. (We see that in the UK as shown by Phil Bratby’s “Windfarm Wars” reference- by the way, they are not cosy “windfarms”, they are occasional wind power stations.)
    As I have suffered for 28 years with a serious heart problem, I know that you only have ONE life (with your wife) and this life is NOT a rehearsal. Remember, these ignoramuses are stealing that one life from you. Keep fighting until you draw your last breath; you will be amazed at the power and energy of the small person in your fight for truth and democratic treatment. Governments always move the goalposts to suit their latest favoured economists fairy story; they know nothing of having clear consciences.
    The only drawback is that these unchristian political evangelists and judges will not be punished by the sword or nailed to crosses to pay for their destruction of our world and mankind.


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    Jim, Sure it looks bad. But we can change that. It doesn’t have to be this way.

    Most people want things to be fair, justice to be done, and the public servants to serve the public. There are more of us than there are cheats and bullies. Why let them get away with it.


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    Ian

    From a Canadian…Good luck to both of you. It must be incredibly frustrating trying to fight the bureaucracy and corruption that seems to permeate governments everywhere. Keep fighting the good fight knowing that win or lose you are doing the right thing and you are the better people for it.


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    Jaymez

    Even if those few complaints about odours were genuine, whoever said that we could have all the benefits of the society we live in without some little inconveniences? If a few complains about traffic noise was all it took to close down a new road, we’d have no new roads. If a few complaints about aircraft noise were all it took, we’d have no airports or no increase in air traffic. And so it goes.

    As far as I can tell, the Department of Environment and Conservation’s ruling that the Thompson’s can only operate a limited capacity and only provided they don’t cause any more odour complaints, (an untenable situation when you know certain members of the community don’t want them there regardless), takes no account of the majority of locals including nearby neighbours who actually want the Thompson’s to operate. There is no recognition by the DEC or the Minister that the Thompson’s business will help the community remain economically viable. How does the DEC ruling serve our democratic society and benefit the State or the local community?

    I hope the Thompson’s and their kind legal supporters do have the strength and courage to continue the fight because the rights of many other people hang in the balance.


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    Jim Barker

    I hope that you are able to draw some measure of strength, resolve, and hope from all of us. Donation on the way.


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    Jim Barker

    Makes me sad to share this so called Judges’ last name.


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    Roy Hogue

    Jim @16,

    Yes, Australians are feisty and amiable people on the whole, but the reason the country is being destroyed is because their a national indifference to politics and the government they elect.

    Some yes, some no. You don’t see the same Australians I see every day. You really are not very perceptive if you think:

    1. That corruption is limited to Australia.

    2. That Australians are any more indifferent to politics than anyone else.

    I don’t know where you live but I’ll wager that you could easily be talking about your own homeland.


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    gemini4

    This is much the same abuse of process that is being used by greens to block new aquaculture projects in Tasmania. Apparently the Dept has been suddenly convinced by ‘concerned locals’ that fish produce excrement. Who’d have thought?


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    Geoff Sherrington

    In 1969 the Peko/EZ joint venture discovered the Ranger Uranium deposits on ground that was two run-down cattle stations named Mudginberri and Munmarlary. The Ranger deposits were the biggest then known in the world and they caused a najor policy think about what Australia should do about uranium mining.
    The story is very long, but at the crux, we had one set of papers issued by the Commonwealth for 21 years, requiring us to spend money on each granted lease. OTOH, we had a directive from the National parks and Wildlife people that if we went onto the land for any purpose doing with exploration or mining, we would suffer heavy penaly. We won the first Court case, in the Federal Court, by Justice Briam Beuamont ruling that the decision to declare the World Heritage area over our leases was null and void. The Commonwealth appealed this decision before the full Federal Court and we lost, with the majority decision being written by Murray Wilcox, who has been President of the Australian Coinservation Foundation, but saw no reason to stand aside. We went to the High Court and when we seemed like we were winning, Parliament sat and passed an overarching law that “No operations for the recovery of minerals shall be conducted in Kakadu National Park”.
    We had one new prospect developing. On today’s uranium prices, its worth might be at least a $billion. I could walk you there today and show you how a billion might be made. Al that it needs is for a future Federal government to excise it from the park and grant the lease to my mates and me who found it.
    So, Matt and Janet and Peter, you are not alone. Politicsa and zealotry can be cruel.

    Ref: Most explanation is given in the Federal Court proceedings at http://www.law.mq.edu.au/Units/law404/Peko%20FCA%201987%20case.htm
    I was one of the main motivators and am happy to answer questions.


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    Geoff Sherrington

    Janet: “We’re actually living ‘Atlas Shrugged’”
    I’ve never forgotten this passage: For Dr Ferris you can read Frof Flannery loosely.

    “Did you really think that we want those laws to be observed?” said Dr. Ferris. “We want them broken. You’d better get it straight that it’s not a bunch of boy scouts you’re up against—then you’ll know that this is not the age for beautiful gestures. We’re after power and we mean it. You fellows were pikers, but we know the real trick, and you’d better get wise to it. There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced nor objectively interpreted—and you create a nation of law-breakers—and then you cash in on guilt. Now that’s the system, Mr. Rearden, that’s the game, and once you understand it, you’ll be much easier to deal with.”


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    Rob Moore

    Observa-
    Good practical efforts on your part.
    Joanne-
    Wonderful summary and archive here and unfortunately in the words of Bon Jovi- “We’re only halfway there- Livin on a prayer!”

    None of us are going to give up on these faceless mongrels- This case and Spencer’s are the line in the sand for the first time in 15 years of this creeping cancer like socialism – Govt is going to be held accountable for their reckless behaviour.


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    Matt

    Hi Jo, good work on this blog.

    As a L.N.P member i am very angry that the W.A Nationals have not stood up and demanded justice for this family.

    I would suggest that everybody email the Nats in W.A and explain to them that “Property Rights” is one of the National Party’s core policies.
    Personally i will be ringing each National Party Elected Member in W.A and asking some questions about this case, and why a solution hasnt been found.
    As a victim of this sort of harassment from Queensland E.P.A, i understand what they are going through.


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    Hello again. Know that we read every comment, and always appreciate honest questions and supportive comments.

    Thanks again to Jo for this update, and to Anthony Watts who has also put this update on his site. There was a question on that thread from one of his readers, and I thought I’d share my answer with you all as well.

    Thanks again for all the comments and support.

    William Gordon, fair comments and questions. Just to be clear: the lawyers are working pro-bono (with uptake agreements; out-of-pocket expenses paid by us). The majority of the first lot of donations to our children are still in a separate account that we have nothing to do with, but the caretakers of that account have used some for the children’s living expenses. We’ve been doing a lot of the leg work ourselves and therefore have only been working part-time to earn money.

    The battle we face is, no doubt, large and extremely challenging. But Matt and I are strong and well-balanced (most of the time! haha), and we feel like if we do not take up this fight, who will? While we pursue through the courts as we must, much is happening with people coming together in a grassroots movement to bring common sense back to the legislative branch of government, and to hopefully bring the bureaucracy back into line. The bureaucracies have grown unchecked for far too long. (I believe, btw, that this is the situation in the US and other first-world countries as well as Australia.) Now that we have nothing left to lose, the responsibility to fight back is resting on our shoulders.

    Together, we can do this. With support of good people who understand what is at stake, we can do this. With limited funds but committed people, we can do this.

    We have a strong case that we intend to take to the High Court of Australia if necessary. That is, indeed, our ultimate goal. We have always known that our path would not be easy. But we are healthy, we’re together, and we are blessed with four beautiful, healthy children who are worth fighting for. We also feel a strong moral obligation to continue to fight for the unsecured creditors to whom we owe money.

    We have a very strong case against this Government Department. We have done nothing wrong. And there are many people (whom we’ve met because of our story) who are in very similary situations. People have things happen in their lives all the time that were never in “the business plan.” Tragedies strike in a variety of forms every day. We are lucky in the cup we’ve been given. We will stay on this horse for as long as it stands. If it falls, we will calmly step off. But unless and until that happens, we will keep riding hell for leather. We have no acceptable alternative.

    We cannot shirk the duty that has fallen to us. We will not.


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    Niles

    It seems that when Leftists, Greens and/or Socialists (all statists of course) achieve control of government or its bureaucracies, democracy and the Rule of Law fly out the window.

    I hope that people begin to realize that if the Thompsons can be subjected to such arbitrary and capricious tyranny, then ANYONE can. People must stop accepting this slow bureaucratic and judicial strangulation of democracy and personal liberty and begin revolt against the tyrants by making wise choices at the ballot box.

    Just as important too is to have fighters like the Thompsons who have the courage and persistence to battle against tin horn dictators who abuse the power they have been granted.

    Niles
    San Diego, CA, USA


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    Luke

    Don’t quit. Everyday more and more people are getting run over here in America as well. Everyday even more people are coming to understand the reality of the world we’re living in and just how deep and dark is the abyss in which our so-called leaders dwell. Your voice does not fall on deaf ears.


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    Hopew this is not off topic but: Has anyone got any information regarding the Peter Spencer case which was to go back to court in December? I haven’t heard any more.


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    Hi Joanne,
    Wasn’t it supposed to proceed on the 4 December?
    Which court was it?


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