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October 28th 2010 print

Bob Carter

Bush burial

The victimisation of Peter Spencer, Maxwell Szulc, and Matt and Janet Thompson, and that of many other country persons, is a national outrage - and all the more so because it is being pursued with the force of intimidatory law.

Property rights in Australia: the assault on the bush 

It is time that the people of Australia stood up and halted this nonsense

Over the last few weeks, country folk in eastern Australia have rightly been focused on the issue of incompetent bureaucratic and government management of the Murray-Darling Basin (MDB) plan. 

Important aspects of the MDB plan bear on the property rights of landholders, which have been under assault from Green political activism in all states of Australia for many years. 

Meanwhile, in Western Australia, a first farmer has been jailed (for 90 days) for clearing 40 hectares of his own property for fire breaks. His name is Maxwell Szulc, and he was released from Wooroloo Prison in Perth last Monday (October 25th). 

Another frightening bureaucratic assault on individual property rights in WA concerns the case of Matt and Janet Thompson and their four children, who are threatened with the bankruptcy of the modern, state-of-the-art feedlot business into which they have poured their skill, love and life’s savings. The WA Department of Environment and Conservation having revoked a formerly-granted license to operate the feedlot at the required level of economic efficiency of 10,000 head of cattle, the business has become uneconomic, and on September 18th the NAB gave the Thompson’s four days notice to vacate their property. 

These two cases are but the tip of a Green-inspired juggernaut that is now threatening farmers and other country businesses throughout Australia. 

But people like Maxwell Szulc and Matt and Janet Thompson are made from fighting stuff. Accordingly, to greet Mr Szulc on his release from jail last Monday, they and other country landright supporters held a Funeral for Property Rights with a ceremony on the steps of Parliament House, Perth, followed by a wreath-laying and a burial at Cottesloe Beach. 

A third celebrated and landmark case concerning property rights in Australia is that of NSW farmer Peter Spencer, who raised awareness of the issue through his 52-day hunger strike last year. Mr Spencer flew to Perth to participate in the WA funeral ceremony. 

The Property Rights Funeral was widely attended or covered by the WA media, including by the West Australian newspaper, The Countryman, Farm Weekly, News Weekly, the three commercial TV stations and ABC talkback radio. In contrast, it appears to have had very little news coverage in eastern Australia. 

With their permission, I reproduce below the speeches given at Parliament House by Janet Thompson, and at Cottesloe Beach by her husband Matt Thompson. 

These speeches should be drawn to the attention of all politicians of all parties, and I urge all who come to this page to read them carefully, and reflect upon them deeply. For there are no more loyal Australians in our whole continent than Peter Spencer, Maxwell Szulc, and Matt and Janet Thompson. Their victimisation, and that of many other country persons unsung here, is a national outrage – and all the more so because it is being pursued with the force of intimidatory law. 

Common law rights, and especially strong property rights, are the cornerstone of the secure and prosperous society that Australia used to be. Future Australians will be all the poorer the more that our generation fails to restore, protect and safeguard the traditional common laws of property. 

Maxwell Szulc’s courage in serving out his jail term should not be allowed to go unrewarded. So, on behalf of all Australians, I ask that you make your views on this matter known strongly to your democratically elected representative. Demand action on the restoration of country property rights – now, and every time in future that you get, or can create, the chance. 

Finally, thank you to Quadrant Online for yet again posting information that is vital for informed public debate, but which has been ignored, or underplayed by the so-called mainstream media. 

Bob Carter, Townsville



The Death of Property Rights

Funeral Service

Steps of Parliament House, Perth
11:00 a.m., Monday, 25 October, 2010

Followed by a

Burial Ceremony

Cottesloe Beach
1:30 p.m. 

The Funeral Ceremony, Parliament House – speech by Janet Thompson 

Don Bird, a silo and eco-shelter manufacturer, played the bagpipes in full regalia at the funeral as the procession of pallbearers, coffin and truck progressed to the steps of Parliament House. Janet Thompson then spoke these words.

Private Property Rights was born in England on 15 June, 1215, and passed away in Australia on 26 July, 2010, after a long illness.

Private Property Rights was preceded in death by his father, Will of the People; his mother, Common Law Rights (née Magna Carta); and a sister, Right to Trial by Jury. He is survived by a cousin, Freedom of Speech, with whom he shared a close relationship. Even though that cousin is terribly ill himself, we are privileged to have him here with us today.

Our friend was quiet and unassuming. In fact, even though we gathered here today consider Private Property Rights to be one of our best friends, we did not often speak of him, or even think about him. He was one of those friends that we took for granted. He did not resent this … he was forgiving. But his very existence depended upon our belief in him. Our friend died slowly – stoically — over a long period of time, not because of his enemies’ incessant attacks, but because we failed to stand up for him. We failed to be the antidote to his enemies’ poison. And without us, his best friends, defending and protecting him, he had no one. And so he suffered death by a million cuts while we tried to ignore the assaults and pretend that our friend would survive on his own.

Private Property Rights was our foundation. Our cornerstone. Our strength. Because of him, we were able to use our property to access credit, adjudicate, lease, transfer, exploit for personal use, exploit for profit, use as a guarantee, access insurance, buy and sell, donate, and mortgage and pledge. And because we as individuals were able to do these things, Australia became not only a successful trading country, but a capitally-developed one. Our country prospered and grew.

Australia, the “lucky country,” developed relatively quickly and effectively, not because of a nebulous, undefinable “luck,” but due to strong principles and lots of hard work. Private Property Rights, which existed within our sovereign nation’s tradition of common law rights, was core to that development.

Since the UN’s 1992 Rio Earth Summit, we have experienced a stealthy assault on sovereignty. This is dangerous, as the United Nations does not rely on the same common law history and democratic principles that Australia does. In short, our sovereignty is vital in upholding our common law rights. Those rights are the very underpinnings to a successful and sustainable society. Our friend, Private Property Rights, is dead today because we continue to give ourselves over to faceless, unelected, unaccountable, and unscrupulous groups who are willing to leave us hollow and lifeless.

Assaults on our friend came in a variety of ways, through an array of Non-Government Organizations (like Conservation Council and Environmental Defenders Office) and Government Departments, like the Department of Environment and Conservation, or DEC.

DEC exists today because our society, with strong Private Property Rights, was so productive that we could afford the luxury of establishing a government department with a focus only on environment, with no other considerations. At the time this Department was established, as with all such beginnings, society deemed it important and necessary.

But DEC has evolved now to such a point that they are hindering the very economic activities that support their own existence. Bureaucrats are now making decisions about what producers can and cannot do, without any basis in science or fact, indeed without consideration of true environmental outcomes. Many of these bureaucrats have never produced anything themselves, and exist only because of the very producers they seek to regulate.

When non-producers have the power to tell producers what they can and cannot do, without that power being voted on by the people of our democracy, as is the case with regulations and policies, society is setting itself up for failure.

The death of our friend is the final and unquestionable warning bell.

Private Property Rights has passed away.

But we believe that resurrection is possible. It is up to us to provide the breath of life, the active support, and the fertile soil within which Private Property Rights might live again.


Prelude to the Wreath Laying Ceremony by Janet Thompson

Private Property Rights was assaulted in various manners by people and organizations employing countless methods of attack. We have friends of Private Property Rights with us today who have experienced first-hand the very real effects of those assaults. But first, let us acknowledge those not in attendance today.

  1. Out of complete despair, some have taken their own lives.
  2. Children have left the family farm due to uncertainty of tenure.
  3. There have been family break-ups.
  4. Several people suffer from severe illness due to stress.
  5. Some, after fighting for years, have lost all hope.
  6. I lost count of the number of people who said they supported what we’re doing today, but they could not afford to be seen or to have their name used for fear of retaliation.
  7. And many, after working hard and saving their whole life, having invested their superannuation into land, cannot be here because they’ve been forced to take jobs and are working for others.

Let us remember those absent today. 

Now, as for those in attendance…

Several years after our Federal Government committed to emissions targets set in the Kyoto Protocol, they were able to boast about meeting those targets. They achieved this by locking up a full 19% of the entire land area held in private hands throughout Australia through Native Vegetation Clearing Bans. They stole billions of dollars from property owners in the name of the common good. A tiny minority of our population was made to bear the entire cost of that “good.”

One producer who suffered this cost, after years of fighting the injustice, in a final bid of desperation, went up a pole late last year. For 52 days he did not eat, in an attempt to bring attention to the fact that Private Property Rights was extremely ill.

That man’s name is Peter Spencer, and we’re very pleased to welcome him to Perth today.

For months we’d been hearing rumours about the death of Private Property Rights, but it was confirmed on 26 July of this year, when a farmer, Maxwell Szulc, was jailed for clearing 40 hectares of fire breaks on his own land. Max was not even allowed to protect his own property (or the neighbouring state-held land). This funeral is being held today because Max is being released from prison, and will be joining us here shortly.

Finally, Ian Broad of Mingenew is here. Ian recently was fined $85,000 for clearing a bit of his property. The kicker of this story is that the authorities charged his wife, Dianne, as well, and so forced Ian into a plea bargain such that, in the end, Ian was thrilled to get only an $85,000 fine as opposed to him and his wife both being sentenced to jail.

The Wreath Laying Ceremony itself

Wreaths, representing 6 specific attacks on Private Property Rights were next laid on the coffin.

This is Brian Burns. He is 71 years old, and is transporting houses to earn money in what SHOULD be his retirement, because 6,000 of his 8,000 acres of land has been tied up in Native Vegetation Clearing Bans. He’s been fighting for 20 years.

Max Edwards represents Nicholas Michael Lucas’s family, who have been fishing in our southwest for 90 years. Through the most recent of Nick’s 30 years in the business, he has experienced a dramatic erosion of his ability to use his property in the way intended … primarily through licence restrictions.

Imagine that you own a home or a building in the Metro area. Someone comes along and proclaims that your property has heritage value … perhaps due to the fact that it’s very old, or maybe because a semi-famous band once practiced in the garage. Once that house or building is heritage listed, you are quite limited as to what you can do to and with it – from maintenance to capital works. Restrictions negatively affect the value of that property. This has happened throughout the metro and country areas.  

Also, at this very moment, pastoralists, graziers, fisherman and tourist operators in the Kimberley are threatened with National and World Heritage listings, which would affect land and business values. Leo Killigrew of WA Property Rights Association, on behalf of the hundreds of property owners affected by the multitude of imposts under the guise of “Heritage,” lays a wreath today.

Jean is representing Darryl and Judy Shreeve, who own property at Gingin. Because theirs is one of 5 properties around Gingin on which the “Gingin Wax” plant has been found, the Shreeves can no longer use their land effectively. In fact, the Shreeves now have to seek permission to “take” these plants (which grow prolifically), in order to clear firebreaks.

Craig Underwood’s property is northeast of Jurien Bay. After Government approved a large private residential development (without a water provision plan) in that town, the Department of Water placed a groundwater protection notice on the seven surrounding farms. This affected value of his property to such an extent that Craig’s bank cut their lending limits, starving the Underwoods of cash to operate. Craig now works the mines to earn money to live. For that reason, he is unable to be here in person today. Keith Jackson lays a wreath on behalf of Craig and his family.

This is Syd Livesey. If you want to meet a true conservationist … a real environmentalist, come and shake this man’s hand. Syd has a property north of Albany in the Porongurups. For seven long years he fought the Ag. Department and the Soil Conservation Commission to be able to manage his land the way he deemed necessary. He finally won. Then DEC came in and took him back to square one. After spending over $300,000 in legal fees, consultancies, reports, time and effort, AND after getting a win, Syd still cannot use his land. 

Do you know that the Southwest of Western Australia is a UN-declared “biodiversity hotspot?” I ask you this: If property owners are so bad, how could we possibly have such a diversity of flora and fauna in the southwest of our state when it has been held in and managed by private hands for the last 130 years? Sid lays a wreath today for the negative impact of “Biodiversity Corridors” on Private Property Rights. 

The burial service at Cottesloe Beach – speech by Matt Thompson 

The funeral party then moved to Cottesloe Beach, where the coffin was buried, and Matt Thompson gave this speech:

We are all here today because we sense there is something very important wrong in our nation and our society. This wrong is best represented by the death of the fundamental right to private property that we bury here today. However, the wrong is not limited to just our traditional notion of private property. People in all facets of society — both the public and private sector — find themselves choking in a sea of what is best described as red tape.

Teachers, shop owners, and transport operators find themselves spending more time filing out forms than they do with their students, their clients, or their trucks. They report suffering from that sickening, humanity-killing feeling that their own government doesn’t trust them to think for themselves, but rather expects them to act as a cog in a big machine unthinkingly punching out the next rivet.

The funeral today is a symbolic one. The coffin is empty. However, for many of us that have experienced first hand the loss of life due to environmental extremism and centralized control, the site of the coffin hits home very deeply. In the last six months, I myself have lost a very dear and close friend, Lindley Boseley, who took his own life after seeing his great life’s work rendered useless by pig-headed bureaucrats just to prove they could.

I saw another trading partner and businessman Ned Borello take his own life. Ned had spoken out aggressively against excessive regulation and red tape which he saw as curtailing the growth and productivity of the state, only to see his own abattoir business and life’s achievement regulated more aggressively than others.

Loss of life from environmental extremism has resulted from various policies in various ways. Life-exterminating trees still stand within 2 meters of major highways and country roads, because worshippers of the God of Native Vegetation won’t let us remove them.

Private property owners have been restricted from prescribed burning and removing dangerous fuel loads resulting in destructive and fatal bush fires. The list goes on.

Environmental extremism has allowed laws to be passed in WA which grant DEC virtually unchecked power over every thing that happens in the state. As the age old saying goes, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Among other things DEC has done with their unchecked power is that they have abandoned the common law principle of presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

DEC writes and implements policy based on what they call the precautionary principle. For those of you that don’t know, the precautionary principle says that any allegation of risk justifies implementing a policy without evidence of real environmental harm. Basically, in actual practice, this means that one is considered guilty until they prove themselves innocent. To illustrate: with this many people here today, there is a small risk that one of you is a murderer. On the basis of the precautionary principle I could lock you all up in gaol today without notice, with no proof whatsoever other than the simple fact that risks exist. As you can see, this precautionary principle is the precise opposite of common law.

Many policies of the Western Australian government today are not passed by Parliament at all, but are rather the policies of an agenda that is being implemented by Departments at the request of the UN. There is today a Korean man, living in New York City, who has more power over what happens in WA than the Premier. The people of WA have never been given the opportunity to vote for this man, Ban Ki Moon, and likely wouldn’t do so if they were given the opportunity.

Throughout the history of the twentieth century, every instance of centralized control and consolidated power led to starvation and destruction. When Mao Tse Tung replaced private property in China with government run farms, well over 30 million people starved to death. When soviet Russia abandoned the right to private property and implemented centralized control over all aspects of Soviet life, over 50 million people perished. Despite the clear and unambiguous lessons of history, we find ourselves in the year 2010 plunging headlong into centralized control and consolidated power. This can only lead to the same place it always has: starvation and destruction. Some environmental extremists view such death and destruction as a good thing because they view humans as a scourge on the planet which should be removed.

A great philosopher wrote this about that moment in which civilized society is destroyed. “When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion–when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing–when you see that money is flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favours and approvals–when you see that men get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you–when you see corruption being rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice–you may know that your society is doomed.”

Today is supposed to be a very sad affair, and after what I just said, you would think that I am sad. However, as I look around my town, my state, and at this crowd here today, I am comforted that there is a whole lot right in Australia. I am standing next to a man (Maxwell Szulc) with the courage, decency, and dignity to allow himself to be put in gaol, rather than allow some bureaucrat to mismanage his property which he is responsible for.

I am standing next to another man (Peter Spencer) who was willing to risk his own life in 52 gruelling days on a tower to bring awareness to the importance of private property rights. Thousands of kilometres to our east, farmers, business owners, miners and country people of all persuasions are banding together to save their regions from the disastrously ill conceived Murray Darling basin plan. People all across Australia are awakening from their slumber and have determined to restore the private property and common law rights that have made this great nation so “lucky.”

We have a message to politicians that are here. From this day forward, we will judge elected governments not on how many laws they can pass, but rather how many they can repeal. We know the bureaucracies threaten and intimidate politicians in the same way that they do land and business owners. We are not going to take it any more, and we don’t expect you to, either. Just because some parliament 16 years ago erroneously passed legislation that says that elected officials can’t sack senior bureaucrats doesn’t mean that you can’t. We expect you to answer to us, and them to answer to you. This is a democracy and you are the government. You can simply pass another act that says that you can sack directors and restructure departments, then proceed to do so. We have your back, and we are determined to resurrect the rights that lay buried here today, and to restore the rule of common law to this great nation.