Property Rights Australia

Phil Sheridan Barrister at Law at PRA AGM 2009

Vegetation Management Act history
 

The Trading of Property Rights in Queensland For Political Power

1. Agriculture in Australia currently faces significant challenges. By far the most

serious and difficult of these challenges are those imposed by Government.

2. It was ever thus.

3. These challenges are not about Science, Economics or the Environment; they are

about achieving and maintaining political power and ideological ends in Federal

and State Parliaments.

4. Governments at all levels have been placing conditions and restrictions on land

use in this country for 200 years as land use, production systems and property

rights have evolved over time.

5. One thing to remember, politicians play the Short Game for the Short Gain. The

political cycle runs for 2 to 3 years.

6. Let me tell you a tale that serves to illustrate the fact that the current challenges

were ever thus.

7. In 1813 Blaxland, Lawson and Wentworth crossed the Blue Mountains west of

Sydney. It was “The biggest sheep run they had ever seen” and so it was.

8. Out came the squatters and the sheep. The property rights of Aborigines were

subsumed.

9. The tenure was a very loose system of licence with few conditions apart from the

condition to stock the land and use it for grazing.

10. This was done to avoid land speculation and to foster economic development, the

production of food for the colony and wool to provide an export income.

11. Land and economic development also presented opportunities for Governments to

claim revenue to fund further development and subsidise immigration.

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12. In the mid 1800’s, gold was discovered. Hungry miners needed mutton, beef and

the odd vegetable for special occasions, a town or two and a few hundred pubs in

each town, so the pattern of closer settlement developed.

13. Miners also needed some form of tenure in order to determine who could dig

where. There was a slight disagreement about that at a place called Battery Hill,

near Ballarat, but that is another story.

14. With increased investment in the land, came the demand for more secure tenure.

Licenses gave way to leases which gave way to freehold.

15. Pastoral pursuits and pastoral leases were pushed further into what was known as

“marginal country” as closer settlement took place and the more productive soils in

higher rainfall areas were given over to cropping.

16. In Queensland pastoral leases were granted but as the years went by leases came

with more definite conditions again mainly related to development such as fencing,

waters, yards and clearing of what was then known as “scrub” but what is now

known as the fragile ecosystem.

17. If a leaseholder completed the development and could afford it, in some

circumstances they could “buy” the lease and pay for any trees of value on the land

and have it converted to freehold.

Freehold Tenure

18. Historically, freehold title enabled the holder to do pretty much as he or she

wished, with little or no interference from the Crown once Freehold Title was

granted.

19. Over the years this changed and the rights of freeholders were gradually reduced

via planning and other controls as governments at all levels, given power by the

people at the ballot box, sought to control and manage land use for the common

good and to optimise revenue.

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Vegetation Management Controls on Freehold Land

20. In 1997, the Borbidge Government signed an agreement with the Commonwealth

that, in part, committed the Qld Government to put in place effective measures to

retain and manage vegetation and to reverse the long term decline in native

vegetation cover.

21. Little attention was paid to the effect on the property rights of those affected.

22. The taking of property rights when it suits is not confined to the ALP.

The Vegetation Management Act 1999 – The VMA

23. In 1999 the Beattie Government introduced the VMA to control clearing of

vegetation on freehold land.

24. In his Second reading speech on 8 December 1999, the then Minister Welford

commended the Bill to the House and said:

“Land clearing has long been recognised by the scientific community as a significant

factor in land degradation, the loss of biodiversity and accelerated greenhouse gas

emissions.”

25. In 2005, Professor Suri Ratnapala, Professor of Public Law at the University of

Queensland wrote:

“In searching for an illustrative case of a statute that comprehensively defeats the values

of constitutional government, in particular the rule of law, democratic principle and the

basic requirements of natural justice, one need look no further than this Act.”

“The VMA violates almost all of the basic principles of constitutionalism and good

government.”

“The enforcement provisions of the VMA violate the most fundamental requirements of

criminal justice and should concern every civil libertarian.”

26. The VMA gave rise to the definition of vegetation categories as “Non Remnant”

and “Remnant”, broadly defined as land that had previously been cleared and that

which had not.

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27. Remnant Vegetation was then divided into three categories: “Endangered” and “Of

Concern” and “Not of Concern” and as Minister Welford told the house, the core

purpose of the Legislation was to protect remnant vegetation in either

“Endangered” or “Of concern” RE’s.

28. But before the commencement of the VMA, negotiations between the Qld Govt and

the Cth broke down, with the Cth refusing to provide money to Qld to compensate

landholders affected by the legislation.

29. On 6 March 2000, the Beattie Government held a Country Cabinet Meeting in

Roma.

“Premier Beattie told the packed hall the government wasn’t changing its laws any

further. In fact landholders have had a huge win. The vast bulk of land will now only

have voluntary tree clearing controls.”

The Vegetation Management Amendment Act – August 2000

30. True to his promise at Roma, Premier Beattie introduced the VMA Bill on 24

August 2000. By this time, the Howard Government had refused to provide

compensation to affected landholders and the Beattie Government moved to

amend the VM Act before it had actually commenced.

31. In his second reading speech, Minister Welford told the House (at page 2784 of the

Hansard):

“Amendments are required to ensure the burden for doing the right thing – for

protecting important vegetation communities and managing land sustainably – does not

fall unfairly on a few landholders.

“With no Commonwealth funding support, we regrettably have no choice but to remove

mandatory protection for these areas before the Vegetation Management Act is

proclaimed. This action honours a commitment the Premier made at a Community

Cabinet Meeting in Roma.

“This amendment means that on freehold land, we will protect “endangered” regional

ecosystems – that is, those with 10% or less of their original vegetation remaining – but

rely on the regional planning process and regional vegetation planning committees to

voluntarily extend protection, through a local planning process, beyond this level”.

32. The Vegetation Management Act 1999 (as amended) commenced on 15

September 2000.

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33. Unfortunately for landholders, the Department of Natural Resources did not hear of

the Amendment Act or if they did, they certainly took no notice of it.

34. They prosecuted landholders who cleared “Of concern” and “Not of Concern” RE’s

between September 2000 and April 2004. The exact number is unknown, but could

be up to 40.

35. They also refused permits to clear “Of Concern” and “Not of Concern” RE’s on

Freehold land during that four year period. The exact number is unknown.

36. They also issued Compliance Notices over that they had a “reasonable belief” that

had been cleared unlawfully, despite landholders being cleared by the Courts.

37. One upstart Junior Counsel was told that the VMA had been specifically designed

such that defence was impossible. All bases had been covered.

38. If, in the unlikely event that a defendant did win, DNR would Appeal and continue

appealing, eventually breaking the client. In the incomprehensible event that a

landholder won an appeal, the Government would just go into Parliament and

change the law.

Vegetation Management and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2004.

39. Prior to the 2004 State Election, the Government pledged to phase out broadscale

clearing of Remnant Vegetation by 31 December 2006.

40. They won the election and set about honouring their election promise as some

governments do. From the Explanatory Notes to the Bill:

“A package of measures to phase out broadscale clearing of remnant vegetation by

December 2006 was a key election commitment made by the Govt. Major elements of

this commitment include the protection of “Of Concern” vegetation on freehold land

and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20-25 mega tonnes per annum.”

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Administration of Vegetation Legislation

41. The administration of Vegetation Management Legislation is a bright spot for

landholders.

42. Despite numerous provisions in the legislation that remove the defences of Mistake

of Fact, the Right to Silence, the Privilege against Self Incrimination and various

reversals of the Onus of Proof, huge budgets and the latest technology, DNR are

not very good at administering the Act according to law.

Some Case Examples:

Nick, Fran, Jack and Elena Van Reit – Ekari Park – Mitchell

43. On 20 October 2005, Complaints against Nick Van Reit were sworn by Peter

Robert Witheyman, a DNR investigator. On the face of the Complaint he swore that

“Knowledge of the offence came to him on 22 October 2004.”

44. Magistrate Costello, sitting at Roma, dismissed the Complaints as being out of time

and refused to extend time. DNRM appealed to the District Court.

45. The decision of the Magistrate was upheld by his Honour Judge McGill on Appeal

in the District Court and the DNRM Appeal was dismissed.

46. DNRM appealed to the Court of Appeal, where the appeal was heard by three

Judges of the Court of Appeal.

47. In a 3 Nil decision, the Court of Appeal dismissed the Appeal and made the

following findings, per Justice Fraser QC:

“It was submitted that the finding that the conduct of the prosecution was tardy was not

justified. In my respectful opinion the facts on which the finding was based which were

not themselves in issue, justified the finding.”

48. Despite the dismissal of the Complaints by a total of five members of the Judiciary

across three Jurisdictions, Witheyman issued the Van Reit’s with a Compliance

Notice over the subject land.

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Richard and Maureen Knights – Acme Downs – Bollon

49. Complaints alleging unlawful clearing were made against Richard and Maureen in

September 2005, by Victor Craig Elliot a DNR Compliance Officer based in

Toowoomba.

50. As to the satellite imagery and evidence of Jeremy Anderson, a DNR remote

sensing officer, her Honour made the following findings:

“Jeremy Anderson, who provided the certificate, gave evidence that the remotely sensed

imagery can only provide evidence of a change in vegetation. Whether the change occurs

from natural factors, such as fire, drought, flood, storm or wind or some other act of

God, cannot be determined by comparison of remotely sensed images.”

51. Her Honour dismissed all complaints and awarded costs in amount triple the usual

amount and noted that:

“No order that I can make today can properly compensate, really, Mr Knights, because

he has been put to a huge expense in defending himself in these proceedings.”

52. Chastened not, by the decision of the Magistrate and the findings of fact made by

her, Elliot appealed to the District Court and Richard and Maureen Knights bore the

costs of preparation for the Appeal.

53. The Appeal was set down for hearing on a Monday. On the Friday prior, DNRM

withdrew the Appeal.

Scott and Anne Simpson – Tara - Hebel

54. On 27 October 2005, Peter Robert Witheyman swore Complaints against Scott

Simpson, alleging unlawful clearing on Freehold Land, unlawful clearing on a road

reserve and growing wheat on a road reserve.

55. Her Honour Cornack SM dismissed the Complaints and made the following

findings:

The property was subject to a site inspection by Peter Witheyman and Craig

Elliot…These officers were vague in their evidence about which regional ecosystem map

they used in their investigation on the site.

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Peter Witheyman agreed that there are various versions of the Regional Ecosystem Maps

which is very confusing for everyone. It was rather concerning during his evidence to

consider the emails which reported that the remotely sensed images used by the

Prosecution to prove clearing of the land did not show a very large shed which is actually

on the property. The area around the shed simply looked like pasture in the images.

A computerised set of information concerning property boundaries is used by the

Department. This is the Digital Cadastral Data Base (DCDB). Linda Lawrence moved

the DCDB approximately 100 metres to the southwest for the purpose of assessing the

area of alleged clearing on the roads reserve. She did this only for the purposes of the

prosecution. The permanent records of the department were not also altered.

56. Her Honour also found that prior to April 2004; the intention of Parliament was to

protect by legislation only “Remnant Endangered” RE’s.

57. Costs were awarded to Scott and Anne against DNRM again at triple the usual

amount, given the unusual circumstances of the case and the conduct of the

prosecution by DNR.

58. Between the first three days and the last day of hearing and prior to the decision of

the Magistrate dismissing the Complaints, Witheyman gave Scott and Anne a

Compliance Notice over the area subject to the charges. This Notice has only now

been withdrawn by DNRM.

59. DNRM appealed this decision to the District Court. On 20 March 2009, Judge

Botting QC dismissed the Appeal. His Honour made the following finding in respect

of the question of law:

[60] “In my view, I should accept the respondent’s (Scott’s) submission that, on its

proper construction, at the time of the offence alleged against the Respondent, regional

ecosystems other than Remnant Endangered Regional Ecosystems were not intended to

be protected by the two Acts.

60. Witheyman has filed an Application for leave to Appeal to the Court of Appeal. This

appeal is yet to be heard.

Compliance Notices - Bob Wild – Whyenbirra – Bollon

61. Upon a reasonable belief that an offence has been committed, DNR can give a

landowner a Compliance Notice. There is no need for a trial or a finding of guilt by

a Court.

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62. Prior to the commencement of the VMA, Bob Wild inspected a property called

Whyenbirra, near Bollon, with a view to purchase.

63. He had with him some very rudimentary hand drawn vegetation maps, provided by

DNR. He formed a view that the maps did not accurately reflect the vegetation on

the ground.

64. He called in DNR to verify the map. Two DNR officers inspected the block and

formed a view that the map was in error and told Bob that they would pass on the

information to the EPA in order that the map be updated and amended. This they

never did.

65. Bob bought Whyenbirra, cleared some of the land, was subsequently prosecuted

and faced with the cost of defending the prosecution, pleaded guilty and was fined.

He was then issued with a Compliance Notice, which he appealed and was

granted an Order of Stay by the Court.

66. Following the Order of the Court that the Notice be stayed, the Director General of

DNR, Scott Spencer, encumbered the title to Whyenbirra with the Notice.

67. This encumbrance serves two purposes; to alert prospective purchasers of the

existence of the Notice and to devalue the land. The land was subsequently sold

with the encumbrance on it.

68. The Notice was appealed on 12 grounds of invalidity, 1 ground is enough. Her

Honour found 19 grounds, which is why her Honour is a Magistrate and one is

Junior Counsel.

69. In upholding the Appeal against the decision to give the Notice, her Honour found

the Notice:

“confusing, unclear, uncertain, vague and impossible to comply with..

70. At the same time the Appeal against the Notice was heard, Bob Wild brought an

Application for Punishment of Contempt against Director General of DNR, Scott

Spencer, arguing that placing an encumbrance on the freehold title after the Court

had ordered a stay, was in Contempt of Court.

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71. In defending the contempt application, it was submitted by the Director General

that the Court did not have the power to prevent him doing as he did and in any

event he was only following instructions from departmental officers.

72. The Director General was found in Contempt of Court, ordered to remove the

encumbrance on the freehold title and ordered to pay almost $50,000 in costs for

the Contempt Application and the Compliance Notice Appeal and ordered to

apologise to the Court and to Bob Wild.

73. Whilst the apology to the Court was swift, the apology to Bob Wild did not come

until some time later, as did the costs, in the shadow of the election. That matter is

now at an end.

The Vegetation Management (Regrowth Clearing Moratorium) Act 2009

74. On 15 March 2009, six days before the recent election, the Premier announced

that, if re elected, her Govt would ban the clearing of “Endangered Regrowth” or

“Non Remnant Endangered” vegetation.

75. At that time, such a category of vegetation did not exist, but such things can be

quickly invented these days, given a pseudo-scientific gloss, blame is apportioned,

the issue is labelled as a crisis affecting Biodiversity, the Reef and Global

Warming, coupled with a solution and shovelled at the electorate via a compliant

and unquestioning media.

76. For over a decade the electorate has been told that clearing destroys ecosystems.

Once cleared, they cannot recover and are lost for future generations.

77. The counter argument posits that some of this vegetation will continually grow

back and will, like prickly pear, keep marching on until they dominate the

landscape.

78. Unfortunately, this argument was ignored early on by the Government. Even more

unfortunately they have now taken it up, such that from the dozer and chain, the

blade plough and the stick rake, Remarkably Resilient Endangered Non Remnant

Vegetation emerges from the ashes and due to its obvious fragility, must be

protected.

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79. The Regrowth Moratorium Bill was introduced into Parliament on 22 April 2009

and was passed the next day as an “Urgent Bill.”

80. In his Second Reading Speech (page 61 Hansard 22 April 2009), Minister

Robertson noted that:

“the 2004 legislation to ban clearing of Non Remnant Vegetation had delivered the

single largest reduction in greenhouse gas emissions ever in Australia and it set the

framework for the delivery to the then Howard Government a 20-25 megaton

reduction in the carbon emissions and the ability to claim that Australia had met its

international obligations outlined in the Kyoto protocol.

“During the recent election campaign, labor committed to reducing the level of

damaging pesticides and sediments flowing to the Great Barrier Reef. It is proposed to

achieve this initially restricting a combination of damaging farm practices such as

overgrazing, tree clearing along creeks and excessive use of fertilizers.”

“However, the continuing high rate of clearing of endangered regrowth is a threat to

biodiversity and allows for the continued release of significant levels of greenhouse gas

emissions.”

“There are two reasons why retrospectivity is justified in this Bill. The first reason is

that it is accepted that retrospectivity is justified where the interests of the public as a

whole outweigh the interests of an individual.”

81. In debate on the Bill, the Opposition made much of the Bill being a payoff to the

Greens for preferencing Labor in the election. This was denied by the

Government, who maintained that their motives, being the protection of the Reef

and reduction in Greenhouse Gasses were pure and holy.

82. The Moratorium Act removes the right of a citizen to Judicial Review or Appeal to

any Court and removes the right to compensation.

83. It takes control of 1 million hectares of the States most productive private property,

worth about $2 billion, without compensation.

84. Urban Land is exempt, not surprisingly as halting of clearing in urban areas would

have a significant effect on the price of residential land in the state.

85. Mining is exempt; you can still flatten a mine site, so long as you promise to put it

right when the hole is empty.

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There is much more to Come

86. There is more to come, much more if you are on coastal land. The Government

intends to control grazing, crop production and agronomy on coastal lands.

87. Instead of seeking advice from the local DPI agronomist, you will be seeking

permission.

88. In time and in possibly a very short time, the Government will completely regulate

agricultural production and land use in this State, removing production decisions

from farm business owners and vesting them in the State.

89. The excuses are: Global Warming, Saving the Reef, Saving Biodiversity, and

Saving the Murray Darling.

90. They haven’t even started on Saving Lake Eyre yet which will provide an excuse

for the taking of all manner of property rights from Leaseholders in the far west of

the State at the time of lease renewal. Expect the
Wild Rivers Act to be deployed

in Western Queensland to the same effect that it has been used in Cape York.

91. The combination of the
Wild Rivers Act and the Delbessie Agreement will be used

to devastating and long lasting political effect by the Greens and the Bligh

Government.

Water

92. It is highly likely that the State Government will decline to renew expiring Water

Licences on some river systems and / or ban some crops that it has demonised or

by regulation make the production of some crops non viable from and agronomic

or economic perspective.

93. The Government will then be able to trade those property rights for some

perceived environmental electoral benefit, generally “saving” something, or better

still sell those rights to the Commonwealth for the common good and a bucket of

money.

94. Restricting land use by regulation is much cheaper than acquisition and turns a

handy profit for the taker.

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95. If the Commonwealth is prepared to pay $24 million for Torlaee Station at Bourke,

when the net benefit to the Murray Darling of that momentous acquisition is

apparently measured in bathtubs rather than megalitres, then given the right

motivation from the Hollowmen, answers from focus groups and opinion poll

trends they are capable of just about anything in the name of saving things and

sandbagging the Green vote.

Where Do We Go From Here

96. The simple solution is to say “change the government” and then leave that simple

solution to the opposition. Let that mythical person “someone else” do it.

97. That is easy when you say it fast, but as we all know, this is difficult, given that

you have been demonised as environmental vandals, your production systems as

unsustainable, wasteful, gas producing, cruel, immoral and planet destroying.

98. In those circumstances, the taking of your property does not excite or offend

urban voters, at least as much as a similar taking of property from them would.

99. Even if you manage to change the current Government, you cannot be sure that

the incoming Government would do things differently, even if they were elected.

Agripolitics

100. As far as the NFF, Ag Force, the QFF, Canegrowers and any others I may have

missed, on the specific issue of Property Rights they have failed.

101. The strategy of educating the public in a gentle and benign way, while working

with the government to achieve outcomes through compromise, not only sounds

soft and weak, it has failed for a decade.

102. Why wouldn’t the Qld Government have another chew at your property? They bit

a big chunk ten years ago and nothing happened.

103. If the Agripolitical group that you belong to is not winning, that is bad enough, but

if it is not fighting, that is worse still. Make sure they start, if they don’t, take your

money somewhere else and give it a group that will at least fight and all the better

if they win.

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The Green Movement

104. The Green movement are the most powerful, well financed and unquestioned

international pressure group active in the world today. Their various mantras are

chanted in magazines, radio, on television and in schools mostly unquestioned for

they are the self appointed keepers of the moral high ground.

105. In this country and in this state elections are finely balanced between Liberal and

Labor and Green preferences can sway election results.

106. In this way, they exert political influence far in excess of their electoral support.

The demand and receive payment for that support, by way of legislation that

serves to achieve their ideological ends at the expense of landholders, funding for

pet projects and people on the ground in the various public service departments.

107. The Green message must be challenged. But the challenge must be made

following intellectually rigorous analysis of the evidence. The counter message

must be coordinated, targeted and above all, if the allegations are found to be

false, those making the allegations, be they Ministers of the Crown, Public

servants, Consultants, self appointed experts, or representatives of Big Green

must be ruthlessly pursued and held to account in public.

108. It appears to me that what are termed “Peak Stakeholder Groups” are those that

the Government will consult in respect of the latest taking. The Government is

happy to do that, perhaps because these groups are recipients of significant

amounts of Government money and the conventional wisdom is that a Peak

Stakeholder Group will not bite the hand that feeds it.

The High Court

109. Since the advent of the VMA ten years ago, there have been calls for a High

Court challenge to the validity of tree clearing legislation in various states.

110. In Australia we live in a Parliamentary Democracy. The party that wins the election

takes power and makes the laws, subject to oversight by the Courts.

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111. It is necessarily, very difficult for laws made by a government to be overturned by

a Court. If that were not so the process of government would be in a constant

state of anarchy with groups who did not like laws challenging them constantly.

112. My own view is that the argument that tree clearing laws are invalid is the most

difficult argument to win and an argument that you don’t need to have.

113. Justice Callinan QC, former Judge of the High Court, wrote in the Australian

Newspaper on 3 January 2008:

“It has always been the common law that the owner of freehold land owns every tree

on it. To combat the greenhouse effect, land clearing, the felling of trees for forest

timber, grazing or cultivation will in places be forbidden, all of this again in the

acknowledged and, it is said, necessary public interest.”

“It is a legitimate question: will proper compensation be available for the consequential

involuntary reduction in value to freehold owners? I rather fear it will not.”

114. But as usual the solution is not that simple. The High Court is not a wooden stake,

nor a silver bullet.

115. Take for example, Work Choices.

116. The Union movement decided that the Work choices legislation was detrimental to

the interests of their members. The Labor States mounted a challenge to the

legislation in the High Court. They lost.

117. Following the High Court loss, the Union movement then mounted a political

campaign and assisted in the defeat of the Howard Government. The Legal

morphed into the Political.

118. It is my preliminary view that PRA should be involved in an action against the

Commonwealth pursuant to s52 (31) of the Commonwealth Constitution for

compensation on just terms for the property repeatedly taken by the Queensland

Government for the repeatedly stated purpose of enabling the Commonwealth to

comply with the Kyoto Protocol.

119. Essentially, my view is that someone should put a bill in.

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120. There are a number of such actions on foot in the High Court. Spencer v TheCommonwealth was recently struck out by the Federal Court and that strike out

was appealed to the High Court. The Court has not yet delivered a decision in that

matter.

121. PRA needs to research those actions and their prospects of success, both in

respect of the actions themselves and their future benefit in the Queensland

context.

122. This will cost money. But the risks are; either doing nothing where something

could or should be done, or spending money when nothing could or should have

been done.

Noel Pearson

123. Who is your most important ally in this fight? Its not Langbroek, or Seeney, or

Turnbull and I’m afraid it’s not even Senators Boswell or Joyce.

124. I will read some passages to you, as an example of clear thinking and straight

talking on the issues at hand.

125. In June 2006, the bloke I am talking about said this:

“We find ourselves in a position where the greens have walked away from the CYHOA

(Cape York Heads of Agreement). They no longer respect the fact that people need

economic development and a cattle industry in this region and they have been winning.

They have been winning against us hands down at the last two state elections.

They got tree clearing against you guys. They got tree clearing on DOGIT (Deed of

Grant in Trust) and Aboriginal Land. We didn’t even know that tree clearing was going

to be prohibited on Aboriginal lands in the Cape. This was offered to Greenies in

Brisbane with no consultation with us and now we have wild rivers, and I can tell you if

we continue to pick and choose and go our own ways there will be more to come.

Because politically the fact is that blackfellas do not count in the south-east and you

guys do not count for the election of a Labor Government.

We have got to wise up to the fact that when it comes to Green preferences in the

south east corner Cape York will be sold off.

The only way we can recover our position and to ensure that our futures are guaranteed

is if we make common cause again..

There has got to be a balance and it is hard. There has to be a balance between 3

interests and at the moment there is a severe imbalance. We are up against the ropes

and the Greenies are in the ascendant and they are in the ascendant because they are of

more political value in the south east of the state them we are.”

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126. Then in April this year, the same bloke said this:

“If we lose this fight – if we have to live on our own land dictated by a government

that takes its orders from green groups – the whole show is lost. It is imperative that

we prevail here..

Our land is not available for the Labor Party to gift away..

In all our submissions we raised objections to this legislation and were ignored so the

government could secure the green voter support in south east Queensland.”

127. The bloke who has been saying these things is your most important ally in this

fight and that bloke is Noel Pearson, who will speak to you later today.

128. The
Wild Rivers Act 2005 has taken from Aboriginal Landholders in the Cape

what the VMA and the Moratorium Act has taken from you, the rights to develop

and earn a living from your most productive country.

129. There should be no doubt of the level of anger generated when your land gets

taken from you for a couple of hundred years, bits and pieces are given back,

then the best bits get taken again.

130. If it were ever in doubt that for decades the Green movement has mouthed

platitudes, apologies and catchy tunes about Aboriginal rights to land as a

cover to further their own interests and power over that land, then it is beyond

doubt now.

131. Why should PRA engage with the people of Cape York?

132. Because you have done it before in the CYHOA with success. Because you are

both a political minority whose rights have bee traded off to the Greens for political

power. Because Aboriginal people also play the long game and fight the big fights.

133. But finally, a word of caution. If you, as individuals or as a group decide to make

common cause with the Cape York people, then ensure you stick. If you do not,

you will be viewed with the same contempt as the Greens. And justifiably so.