27th January 2009
Property protest tsunami heading for Canberra
When farmer Peter Spencer ended his 52-day hunger strike up a wind tower on his property near Canberra recently, it was not the end of a campaign to highlight erosion of property rights in Australia.
It was just the beginning, with a wave of support gathering strength throughout rural and regional communities. And that wave is heading directly for Canberra.
Spencer successfully focussed national and overseas media attention on the issue of land rights and the inclusion of millions of hectares of rural property in carbon sinks to help Australia meet its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol.
He says the government had declared his 5,385ha property, Saarahnlee, a “carbon sink” without compensating him. Under the Vegetation Management Act, the entire property was rendered off limits to any form of development.
This is a story repeated throughout Australia. It has driven some to suicide, but it has galvanized a planned massive show of strength and support with a land rights rally and march coinciding with the opening session of Federal Parliament next Tuesday. (Feb 2)
The rally has attracted major financial backing to the tune of $150,000 from the New South Wales Farmers Federation which is organizing free buses throughout New South Wales and into Queensland. At least two 45-seat buses will run from Toowoomba on Monday, with the possibility of another if needed.
President of Property Rights Australia (PRA), Ron Bahnisch of Gracemere in Central Queensland said the buses would also pick up people on the trip south.
“We are hoping for a big turn-out. PRA was formed to fight for and defend property rights and this is what it is all about.
“This is what Peter Spencer was protesting for.”
Mr Bahnisch said the buses would arrive at Canberra’s Magna Carta Place and the protesters would then march to Parliament House.
“The idea is also to have Peter Spencer in the public gallery, eyeballing Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, if possible”.
Buses for the Queensland contingent were organized by Goondiwindi irrigated- grain grower Bob Yabsley. Last week at short notice, he organized a protest meeting in his hometown, attended by 250 landowners supporting Spencer’s cause.
“The challenge is everyone goes home and goes about their business, trying their best to run their business and feed their families but we need to maintain the rage, keep the pressure on the government.
“We also need to pressure the opposition to come up with real policies before we vote for them. We don’t want rhetoric, we want real policies.”
Mr Yabsley said it was an incredible gesture of support from the New South Wales Farmers Federation.
“Our organizations in Queensland are pathetic, they haven’t come out and said a word about this, and it is a real indictment on them”. He said he had contacted Agforce three times without a response and the Queensland Farmers Federation has not indicated any support so far.
“The erosion of our land rights in Queensland is as bad or not far behind New South Wales and catching up quickly. This is nation-wide, it’s happening all over Australia,” Mr Yabsley said.
Rights to use water were also under threat. “If you’ve spent millions setting it up, it doesn’t mean a thing, they can come and take it away anyway.”
Mr Yabsley said he had learnt through contacts on groups such as Agmates, a rural and regional on-line site, that similar problems had occurred with land rights in the US.
For further information contact:
Ph: (07) 49334011 Mb: 0409 334 211 Fax : 07 49334768 Email: email@example.com
PRA is a non-profit organisation of primary producers and business people from rural
areas defending the rights of property owners