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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In Australia if you try to clear a firebreak on your land you could go to gaol

Maxwell Szulc

As Greens blame coal miners and SUV drivers for contributing to firestorms that destroy houses, ponder that one man tried to reduce the risk of fires and cleared firebreaks on his property in WA in 2011 and is currently in jail for it, serving a 15 month sentence. Most of the cleared land had been cleared before in 1970 or 1983. This was mere scrubby regrowth. He was trying to separate his property from DEC (Dept of Environment and Conservation) managed land with a 20m wide fire-break. He is due out of jail sometime around Feb 10th, though his government minders have not even fixed that date (are they having trouble calculating “15 months”?) He had previously been jailed for three months in 2010 for a similar action.

This was true civil disobedience. He knew what would happen. He felt someone had to protest and I gather he felt that at 62 and without children or a wife to support, it was his duty.

Szulc cleared his land as a protest. He was in contempt of court, he is in contempt of the DEC.

Some will say that Maxwell Szulc is technically not in jail for clearing [...]

Thompsons Update – looking for work in the US, and pursuing DEC legally in Australia

Matt Thompson was asked for an update from a local reporter in West Australia, and sent this today:

Thank you for your enquiry. We believe that we were treated extremely unfairly by DEC. Through draconian licence restrictions, they made it impossible for us to continue operating Narrogin Beef Producers, after we had received all the required permissions and gone through all the proper processes before and during operation of the feedlot.

We were also in a dispute with NAB over their involvement in destroying our company. About a month ago, we reached a settlement with the NAB which included giving them possession of Narrogin Beef Producers’ physical assets. We still retain the right to sue the State over the destruction of our business, which we are still pursuing. This is our only means of attempting to repay unsecured creditors.

We are interested to see who ends up in possession of our former assets, as these assets would have no value unless the new owners are treated differently by DEC than we were. We remain deeply saddened by the destruction (including abattoirs) of the beef industry in WA, which showed such promise a few years [...]

Convoy leaving from Perth 7am tomorrow (Thursday)

Janet Thompson, organizer of the Perth Convoy (the Orange convoy) writes to me:

The Perth Convoy departs Thursday 7am sharp at Belmont Racecourse.

Please come and drive with them for a short while just to give them a big send off on their long journey to Canberra.

Janet also says: “Hey, you gotta watch this!” It’s a Convoy wrap up on Youtube. Nicely done too.

Matt and Janet explain below in a youtube spot, why they are joining the convoy, (as usual, they selflessly don’t mention their own shocking story).

[...]

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 [...]

Update from the Thompsons: The legal limbo drags on

The Thompsons have no income, but fight on with borrowed help.

Matt and Janet Thompson moved to Australia, got all the approvals to set up a cattle feedlot, invested their life savings, then the rules began to change. They didn’t need a license at all when they started. Then a paddock was called a watercourse, and apparently they needed one. They were turning away customers in 2007, but then Matt spoke as a skeptic and things began to degenerate. In March 2008 their cattle license was cut in half. The West Australian Dept of Environment solicited complaints, and green groups, funded with lottery commission assistance, advised locals on how to target businesses and cut their cash flows to destroy them.

The license conditions suddenly increased, Matt and Janet responded to every request, but no matter how many letters of support, petitions, surveys, studies or odour assessments they got, it was never enough. All the way along DEC kept promising verbally that uncertainties would be resolved soon, but each time the written information arrived, the uncertainties grew and the news got worse and worse. DEC has issued an unbankable license, whereupon DEC can declare [...]

Breakthrough: DEC ‘s all-purpose (green) business licence

In a handy discovery The Department of Environment in WA have found a way to issue a licence that give businesses “all they could ask for” while at the same time keeping the Green complaints to a manageable minimum.

It’s the perfect license for politicians who want to have an answer for ABC radio.

Central page for information on The Thompsons.

An update from the Thompsons down under

For all the supporters of the Thompsons, Janet writes to describe the kind of limbo they are living in. The eviction day October 15, came and went in a blur of work. They remain on the property only due to court injunctions, which have no certainty. Matt and Janet are their own lawyers — doing all the paperwork — with helpful advice from all round, especially Peter King. Legal suits were launched from both sides. The Thompsons are basically under siege, living week to week in their home, waiting, though not sitting still. [...]

Donna Faragher: armed with unpublished complaint-mail and an unbankable license — destroys livelihoods

Donna Faragher, Minister for Environment and other stuff.

Some people have recently received replies from the Minister of the Department of Environment in Western Australia.

The ten second answer to the latest DEC excuses: The Thompsons License is unbankable; the Thompsons have already met the conditions; the complaints are unverified and often solicited, or relate to some other business, and Donna Faragher can teach you how to spell “business certainty” but she hasn’t got a clue what it is.

I’ve added my thoughts below, in between the full grey-box-quotes of the letter.

____________________________________

Minister For Environment; Youth

Thank you for your email to the Western Australian Government dated 22 September 2010 regarding the Narrogin Beef Producers cattle feedlot in Narrogin.

Good to see that through the magic of electronic communications it only took one month and four days to reply.

By way of background to your letter, Narrogin Beef is one of 44 licensed or registered cattle feedlots in Western Australia. The Narrogin Beef feedlot is the only feedlot in Western Australia which has been the subject of significant and ongoing community complaints about unreasonable odour. [...]

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 [...]

DEC, deceptive, duplicitous, or just clueless about money?

The DEC fight back with deception, bogus licenses (that no bank will loan money against), ask for things that have already been done, and turns a blind eye to the killer fine print clauses that make them kingmakers with veto rights over any business in the State.

This is a PR war, and the DEC response (below) is obviously designed to confuse the issue and slow down people who are asking questions. Instead of serving the people, they are deceiving the people. Shouldn’t we expect to get an honest reply from our “public servants”?

With all the emails headed into the WA Parliament about the Thompsons, people were asking DEC very awkward questions. In response DEC produced this reply (below). On face value, local parliamentarians might read that, and think this issue is resolved. Not so. Nothing had changed. DEC either naively don’t understand the World of Business, or worse, they do understand it, and are maliciously using it against their chosen targets.

DEC declare they’ve given the Thompsons a five year license for 10,000 head — but the fine print catch is that condition A1 makes it unbankable — no one would loan the Thompsons money to run [...]

Thompsons update – protest in Perth on Monday

Tower of Hope

Presents The Death of Property Rights

Please and join us for the Funeral Service

To be held on the steps of Parliament House Perth 11:00 a.m. Monday, 25 October 2010

Followed by the Burial Ceremony

Cottesloe Beach, Approximately 1:30 p.m.

“wear black, and bring your truck”

Are you fed up with our government stealing assets, destroying good businesses and ruining families? Are you sick of inordinate red tape being used against you?

Monday lunchtime next week join us at Parliament House in WA, meet Matt and Janet Thompson, Peter Spencer (the 52 day hunger-striker who has won the right to challenge in the High Court), and Maxwell Szulc (a WA farmer who, I understand, cleared fire breaks on his own land, and was jailed for it. Incarcerated! He is being released this Monday morning, which is why the protest is Monday).

I know you have other things you need to do, but if the government keeps growing, when will any of us be less busy?

This is about free speech. What is happening to Matt and Janet is a warning to all of [...]

Dirty tactics? Fences cut at the Thompsons…

The wires are obviously deliberately cut.

1. Dirty Tactics |  2. FarmOnline Media |  3. Mini-update

Yesterday Matt and Janet were horrified to find that someone had cut the wires on the perimeter fence. There was no evidence anyone had taken anything, nor do we know who did it.  An unrelated random crime, or, who knows — someone hoping to spook and intimidate them? (A future purchaser of a fire-sale bargain farm?)

Farm Online Reports on The Thompsons

Please visit one of the few media outlets to write about the Thompsons and let them know how important this story is.

Farm weekly: Recievers Move in To Narrogin Feedlot

This is WA’s biggest rural newspaper, in the Rural Press stable that has newpapers in every state in Australia.

If you go to the link above & read the article in full, you will see that you can add comments.

Thanks Dale Stiller and John from CA.

[...]

Thompsons Part 10: The DEC admits it treated them unfairly

This comes from the DEC’s itself: they have a standard procedure, and they didn’t follow it for the Thompsons.

Here are what I believe are the most damning critical passages of the whole Thompson case, and they come from the minutes of a meeting with DEC and the Thompsons held in December 2009.

From these minutes I quote the passages below. Matt confirmed that no one who attended queried the accuracy of these minutes of Dec 2009. (I have highlighted things in this copy of the minutes and added two notes in red ink and brackets. Forgive the unsubtle additions.)

The minister tell us what their procedure is:

(DF is representative of Donna Faragher the Minister)

DF: There is a clear process that is gone through in these situations. Letters are sent out advising of the problem and providing a time frame for correction. Then an Environmental Field Notice is issued and the proponent is given time to comply. Then and Environmental Protection Notice is issued, and the proponent is given time to deal with that. Only after that exhaustive process, would an operation be shut down…or limited in throughput which would lead to it shutting down. We have had [...]

Thompsons Part 9: Senator Cory Bernardi speaks out in Parliament

Cory Bernardi

Cory Bernardi: As I See It.

Senator Bernardi is not even a Senator from the same state as the Thompsons, yet he has gone out of his way to find out some of the information behind the case, and raised the issue in Parliament. It’s the mark of a man of principle.

Senator Cory Bernardi is a Senator for South Australia. He was one of the leading advocates within the Liberal Party who stood against the Rudd Labor Government’s Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme.

He has written  As I see It: Thoughts of a Conservative.

Alan Jones referred to him as a man of character.   See Cory’s excellent blog. (I enjoy it.) His speech on the Thompsons follows:

[...]

Thompsons Part 8: Mexican standoff at the Farmgate

They came with trucks to take his possessions. Matt Thompson had locked the gates only minutes before. For two hours they waited. Matt watched with his camera in case they forced entry.

Where is The West Australian? Are they too busy covering beauty pageants to write about the real news? I’ve just sent them this link. But I’ve sent them the story twice before. I think they need to hear it from hundreds of people. You can suggest a story to them here, and you can write a letter to The Editor, of The West Australian <letter@wanews.com.au>.

..

They came with a car and two trucks

[...]

Thompsons Part 7: Welcome to Investment Hell

Apologies to those far away who are interested in more international stories, but as Matt Thompson says, it’s sure isn’t dull around here — yesterday he locked the farm gates just in time. The administrators came calling again to start removing items. He and they had a Mexican standoff for 2 long hours — he with camera in hand, they in their car. Matt tells me he can’t leave the property.

I wrote two letters, and sent the first one below to our politicians and The West Australian, and The Australian. I sent the lower letter to A Current Affair (who have expressed an interest) and also to Senator Cory Bernardi and Dennis Jensen, the Federal Member for Tangney. Both men have rung me in the last few days to talk about the Thompsons. They both give me hope that despite all the self serving pork barrelling and spin, there are still good people — great people — in our Federal Parliament. Senator Bernardi was planning to raise the issue in Parliament last night.

I’ve included a third letter from James Doogue (written in July) below mine, because he has taken a different angle with some very valid [...]

Thompsons part 6: Strong Community Support

NEWS: The Thompsons received notification yesterday that they will be evicted on October 15. They ran a popular, profitable business, broke no laws, and received no infringement notices related to their stock numbers.

UPDATE #2: See below for the most useful thing you can do if you want to help them.

Here is a key point people have asked about in comments.

What about the community? How do the people of Narrogin feel — do they want the farm to stay?

The layout of the surrounds, the town, and various complainants. References to the watercourse and gully relate to the need for a license. (Can you see a waterway?)

Narrogin is a town of around 5,000 people.  900 people signed a petition in support and the two nearest neighbors want the feedlot to stay. They don’t just agree the feedlot should run at 10,000 head, they put their names to 15,000. People give Matt money in the street, the complainants live further away than some strong supporters, and the piggery was operating right next door for all those years. The Shire has written to the DEC urging them to allow the business to operate.

[...]

Minister of the Environment and Queen of WA?

! UPDATE ! : The administrators have just written to give notice of eviction for October 15th. They also want the legal rights to the proposed litigation by Narrogin Beef Producers. In other words, they want to firesale the farm and clean up any proceeds of the wrongs done against Matt and Janet. The Thompsons would lose everything. Right now more than anything they need legal brains to help them out.

Here’s the sweet two line clause that pretty much gives total control over all businesses in WA to the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC).

Condition A1 is an all encompassing point recently added to the Thompson’s license. It’s a sweeping clause, and measured entirely with opinions. Anyone with the right to say Yay or Nay on what’s reasonable here is the proxy for ruling Monarch. It’s so powerful that if we referred to noise instead of odour, and applied it to, say, Perth Airport, I’m pretty sure we could stop all flights to Western Australia until they shift those runways to the Gibson Desert.

ODOUR CONTROL A1 The licensee shall ensure that odour emitted from the premises does not unreasonably interfere with the health welfare, [...]

Thompsons part 4: Every slope is a watercourse

See the ridiculous application of laws that are supposed to protect the environment. We mock DEC’s use of the word “watercourse”. The Thompsons case and all their pain depends on a paddock being listed as a watercourse. They have in effect lost it all because in a 100 year flood, water from this paddock might possibly reach a salt pan 10 km away. This is not about the environment. This post includes maps of the property and surrounds. By paying attention to the detail of the licences we can see just how powerful the Department of Environment (DEC) is, and how selective it can be. You would think it would be easy to measure 100 m toward a waterway, but how do you define a waterway? You might expect that it would have banks, or that in a 100 year flood the water flowing in the gully might have a chance of reaching a body of water big enough to have a fish. If so, don’t apply for a job at DEC in WA. [...]

4 days notice! The Thompsons are served notice of eviction.

Have green government officials targeted a family farm because they are vocal skeptics? This is a family with four young children, who ran a profitable business; they filled in every form and ticked every box. They have broken no laws, and there are no outstanding environmental notices, but yet, they came to Western Australia with their life savings and they are losing everything. After years of government red tape, delays, and impossible requests the bank has given them 4 days to pay up. [...]