Reply to Queensland Country Life article 16/12/10 CSG groups should note PRA example

21st December 2010
Media Release

As Chairman and the only authorised spokesman for the Property Rights Australia Board, I am mystified at Shadow Minister for Natural Resources, Mines and Energy, Jeff Seeney bringing PRA into his debate on his differences with his colleagues and constituents as reported in QCL, 16th Dec, “CSG Groups should note PRA example.”

Let’s see him” build a credible case on demonstrable facts and verifiable main stream science that will withstand any reality check” in the CSG mining industry.  Labor Minister Robertson is much closer to the unfortunate reality by claiming to proceed with the oxymoronic “adaptive precautionary principle.”  There lies the nub and the core of the dilemma.  Neither position is obtainable or sustainable.

I’ve been contacted by shadow ministers distancing themselves from Jeff Seeney’s remarks criticising PRA.

In a windup speech at a public meeting in Miles two weeks ago attended by 100 people called at short notice by concerned local LNP members to discuss Seeney’s remarks, Howard Hobbs unequivocally promised on regaining government to pass a Bill enshrining a Charter of Inalienable Property Rights for landowners– an undertaking coincidentally given at many PRA annual meetings and mass rallies in laudatory speeches by Shadow Minister Seeney.

We need to address the assertions in Mr Seeney’s COMMENT:

It is clear from his attack on Property Rights Australia that he understands the reasons behind the inception of PRA almost a decade ago.  He rightly observes that PRA was formed to counter the shameful injustices wrought by the Vegetation Management Act.

Mr Seeney admits that he had high hopes that PRA may be able to achieve some changes to protect property rights against the outrageous attacks of the Beattie government.  Where the vast resources and apparatus of a political party had failed, he hoped that a small volunteer lobby group funded by member donations would succeed.  (PRA was formed to husband a Fighting Fund to subsidise test cases limiting litigation in the administration of the Veg Management Act.)

He further observed that PRA have achieved no change at all in regulation or public opinion.  It is not possible for PRA to achieve legislative or regulatory change.  That’s the job of Mr Seeney as shadow minister and his opposition colleagues.

The goal of an opposition is to convince the electorate that they are fit to govern.  Mr Seeney has failed in that regard for over a dozen years and the erosion of property rights has continued apace, with hundreds of amendments to vegetation management legislation and the introduction and expansion of the appalling Wild Rivers Act which effectively trades the property rights of Aborigines for continued political power.  Does Mr Seeney think Noel Pearson is wasting his time as well?

Precisely what are these “extreme positions and wild claims” that have so damaged the credibility of PRA?

·         Is it the position that the owner of freehold land owns every tree on it and that proper compensation must be available for the loss in value suffered?  That’s not an extreme position of PRA, but the view of retired High Court Judge Ian Callinan.

·         Is it the position that the Vegetation Management Act violates almost all of the basic principles of constitutionalism and good government?  That’s not an extreme position of PRA, but the view of Professor Suri Ratnapala of the University of Queensland School of Law.

·         Is it the position that the enforcement provisions of the VMA violate the most fundamental requirements of criminal justice and should concern every civil libertarian and the powers of authorised officers recall the authority of the infamous Star Chamber?  No, that’s Professor Ratnapala again.

·         Is it the position that banning regrowth clearing has many deleterious hydrological and biodiversity impacts that are mostly glossed over by the proponents of the bans?  That’s not an extreme position of PRA, but the view of retired DPI woodland ecologist Dr Bill Burrows.

PRA confronted the reality long ago that as a small group it was unable to fix what is essentially a political problem and concentrated its efforts on limiting the damage done to rural families by ensuring the legislation was administered according to law.  PRA has had significant success in this regard.

The risks of coal seam gas extraction are real; otherwise there would be no need for the complex regulatory controls that have been imposed.  The problem is that if damage occurs it will be almost impossible to remedy and that remedy will depend on the government of the day, no matter what colour.  Landholders have little faith in government; this one hasn’t managed to issue a water licence in the Atherton area according to law for eight years and their attitude to competing land uses that dump thousands of tonnes of salt water from prawn farms into freshwater aquifers is to suggest that neighbouring farmers sue.  Having that shameful performance by the Labor government as a precedent, why wouldn’t landowners be cynical about them administering their “adaptive precautionary principle”?

Hopefully there will be a change of government next time around.  It’s got to happen.  Before this happens though, Jeff Seeney needs to reach a mutually satisfactory accommodation with his colleagues and constituents and on attaining electoral success deliver on his oft stated promise to Enshrine Inalienable Property Rights.

For further information contact: 

     Ron Bahnisch, “Bower Park,” 290 Fairybower Road, Gracemere, QLD 4702

     Ph: (07) 49 334 011            Mobile: 0409 334 211       Email:
PRA is a non-profit organisation of primary producers and business people from rural
areas defending the rights of property owners