JoNova

A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


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Peter Spencer update: In court today former Environment Minister Kemp. Plus Bob Katter attends

Today is a big day for the trial of Peter Spencer versus the Commonwealth with Dr David Kemp, Minister for the Environment and Heritage in 2003, appearing as a witness. Bob Katter will give  a press conference. Dr Alan Moran, former IPA director will appear too. See times and details below. Public  are welcome.

The background: Peter Spencer versus the Commonwealth and why it’s potentially “bigger than Mabo”

Peter Spencer is the farmer in New South Wales who bought a farm and then lost 80% of it when rules changed to stop people clearing native vegetation. Unable to use most of his property, but still owing money on the mortgage for it, he was bankrupted. He broke no law, but lost his life’s work. Farmers all around Australia lost billions of dollars in assets but at the same time the federal government gained billions of dollars in carbon credits and met our Kyoto requirements by counting the carbon in the vegetation that was locked away.

The implications of this case apply to land holders across the continent. Indeed, if any governments can arbitrarily take assets without paying, or force a small minority to bear the burden of [...]

Peter Spencer versus The Commonwealth — starts Monday in the Federal Court. Help Needed!

It’s a trial described as potentially “bigger than Mabo”

Peter Spencer’s story is one I didn’t think could happen in Australia. He is the farmer in New South Wales who bought a farm and then lost 80% of it when rules changed to stop people clearing native vegetation. Unable to use most of his property, he was slowly bankrupted. Though he broke no law, he lost his life’s work and his beloved farm in late 2010. There was no way out. He couldn’t sell the property — who would buy a piece of land that could not be used? Farmers all around Australia lost billions of dollars in assets as the value of their land and produce declined. The legality of this is finally being tested in the Federal Court in Sydney starting this Monday, November 24, and continuing for the next three weeks. Hold your breath. This could be an enormous case, with implications for land holders across the continent.

Much of his farm was native forest. This is the northern edge of Spencer’s property (Saarahnlee)

The Federal Government can’t take your assets  without paying, but the state governments can

The Native Vegetation Acts were brought in by [...]

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

 

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 [...]

Funeral for Property Rights

UPDATED: Dates for the West Australian Speaking Tour below

Magna Carta

The Thompsons protest on Monday was moving. Janet Thompson delivered one of the best speeches I’ve heard at a protest. I was going to copy parts of it and attach the full speech in documents. But so much is worth saying, I’ve put it here almost in entirety.

In Part I – Janet reads the eulogy to “property rights”: from the Magna Carta til Maxwell Szulc was put in jail for clearing firebreaks on his own land.

In Part II — she recalls those who are not with us, and then those who are. Government infringements on rights destroys lives, and breaks up families. Janet gives us brief examples of other travesties unfolding.

In Part III  — Matt reminds us that the government encroachment affects us all, contributes to suicides and points out that we bow daily to the UN. Every other time people have been subjected to centralized, unelectable power, the death toll has mounted. Now we are now presumed guilty until we prove our innocence.

Matt quotes Ayn Rand:

““When you see that trading is [...]

What does an Australian farmer have to do to make the news?

What has The Australian got against a destitute farmer? Compare their coverage of one farmers protest with other hunger strikers:

When a sex offender protesting his innocence went on a hunger strike, it only took 6 days for The Australian to write about it. Taiwan’s former president went on a hunger strike which was reported as it ended after 5 days. Serial killer Ivan Milat only had to wait a couple of days to make the Australian with a hunger strike that only lasted for five days all up, and its conclusion was noteworthy too.* When three Australian Tamils went on a hunger strike they made headlines after 3 days, and also here. Some Sri Lankan asylum seekers agreed to end their hunger strike after 2 days and the story was covered sympathetically.

This is not to detract from the seriousness of some of the above claimants. But compare the reportage about Peter Spencer who started his hunger strike on November 23, 2009. For 25 days there was not even a short note to alert other farmers or landholders that there was a hunger strike underway by an Australian citizen, on Australian soil.

It was Day 26, before [...]

Investigative journalists work hard to… protect the government from the people?

We would hope that The Australian would stand up for … Australians. Instead our National masthead is not investigating the claims of an Australian farmer against our government, they’re not interviewing constitutional law experts, they’re interviewing his brother.

Peter Spencer is on Day 47 of a hunger strike and trying to get compensation for all farmers whose land was effectively expropriated. Journalist, Paul Maley could have investigated the veracity of the $10 billion dollar claim, but instead he tries to assess Peter’s mental health and personal finances. While these might be a relevant part of the big picture, the big-picture itself is missing.

“Family Financial dispute helped send hunger striker Peter Spencer Up Pole”

The Australian sub-heading is: “SERIOUS doubts have emerged about the case of Peter Spencer”,… but the serious doubts amount to a 40 year old story, and the fact that Peter owes money to his family, rather than to the banks. Serious? Not on the scale of billion dollar carbon commitments.

[...]

The red tape protest has started

James Loring in Tasmania has had a great idea to support Peter Spencer. He took something known as “flagging tape”, added a scarecrow, and a slow moving sheep and created this message for the world to see.

[...]

Peter Spencer’s story is getting media (finally)

What’s interesting is that finally–after 45 days without food–Peter Spencer is starting to get some serious national attention. Today Tonight is a prime time “current affairs” show and this cover was fairly sympathetic. The British Financial Times has also run a story, both of these were serious enough to actually interview Peter Spencer. Finally it seems there is some investigation. A few new facts have been filled in, and also a very strong theme linking his actions to the Kyoto agreement.

The saddest point is that Peter Spencer has been trying to get some attention for at least three years, and probably over a decade. He wrote The War On Farmers in January 2006 and it lays it all out. He was already facing foreclosure in 2006.

The farm consists of about 14,000 acres, about 60 per cent of which was cleared before World War II. When I bought it in the 1980s, I had been working overseas to earn the money to buy the place. Unfortunately, I was unable to farm it for some time so extensive regrowth occurred. When I returned to Australia to begin to farm, I found that various laws to preserve native vegetation had been [...]

How not to do journalism

Watch the whitewash– so white it’s Green. The Peter Spencer story has finally broken into the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age. Two “journalists” paired up to put together almost identical stories as a joint effort, and do their best to add doubt and smear to every part of the Spencer story. It’s a text book case in PR. These two journalists might make passable press secretaries for a Labor government. (Which is a well worn career path).

The big-picture situation, where farmers are asking for $10 billion in compensation for land that was stolen from them, was turned into a story about how the Coalition might be split by a guy on a hunger-strike over land-clearing laws. In reality Peter Spencer could drive one heck of a wedge into the Labor Party, who paint themselves as “helping the little guy” and simultaneously claim they are good economic managers. The Labor government can’t find $10 billion easily anymore, but less than a year ago they gave out $42 billion fairly randomly as a supposedly “clever” economic policy and another $43 billion to get into the broadband business.

Here’s how these major dailies “carried” the story: The Age’s version

[...]

Peter Spencer rally a big success

Over 300 people have rallied in support of Peter Spencer outside Parliament House today, and the ABC* have covered it (at least on their website).

Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce also addressed the crowd, calling for a Royal Commission into vegetation laws. He says the state laws have robbed farmers across Australia of their assets.

“It might have been legally possible but it was totally unjust,” he said.

Senator Joyce says Mr Spencer should cease his hunger strike but the fight for justice should continue.

“This is obscene,” he said. “The Government became the thief of an asset and when the Government becomes a thief of an asset – when the individual is divested of an asset without payment – there is a word for that and unfortunately without being too dramatic the word is communism.”

Some of the protesting farmers are now travelling to Mr Spencer’s property to offer their support.

Unmentioned on the ABC story was that there are allegations that the interstate chartered buses for this event were targeted by Road Traffic Authority (RTA) inspectors. Bus inspections were suddenly arranged, which can take up to [...]