Among the egregious instances of government property theft, planning regulations contain some of the greatest calumnies. And, within planning regulations, a stand out is the conspiracy of state and federal governments of allegedly different political stripe to seize rural property values without compensation as a means of meeting emission reductions of greenhouse gases.
I covered the matter in Quadrant last year.
To summarise: in order to meet the Kyoto commitments, the Howard Government under Environment Minister David Kemp pressured the ALP governments of NSW (Carr) and Queensland (Beattie) to prevent land clearing. Both Premiers readily acquiesced in the process though, at least in the case of NSW, the planning authorities had to be cajoled and threatened by Canberra.
The seizure of private property allowed a “saving” in greenhouse gas emissions of 87 million tonnes a year – about 15 per cent of the nation’s emissions and sufficient to allow Australia to claim that it had met its Kyoto commitment.
No compensation was paid to the landowners, who were estimated to have seen $ 200 billion of worth stripped from them. At one later hearing on the issue, David Kemp claimed he never intended at the time he was Minister (2008) to have the properties’ value taken without compensation but there is no record of him seeking such justice for the expropriated landowners. And as for the legal fraternity, as I said in may Quadrant article:
The courts have shamelessly allowed such transgressions to take place. In doing so, they have sheltered behind a concocted fiction of precedents. These have gradually chipped away at the notion of property rights protected from arbitrary taking by the government. The courts cavalierly dismiss any “just terms” requirements under state law because they are not mentioned in state constitutions. And they reinterpret the federal Constitutional provision to make it easier governments to override.
When the Newman Government came to power in Queensland it started to dismantle the prohibitions against land clearing, partly because emerging markets were bringing a renewed increase in demand for agricultural produce. The results can be seen below
The latest increase in clearings has resulted in an hysterical press release during which Deputy Premier, Jackie Trad, said, “this rate of excessive land clearing was driving native wildlife to extinction, risking the tens of thousands of jobs reliant on the Great Barrier Reef, and driving up Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions.”
The usual claims were made about species becoming threatened, the Great Barrier Reef under siege and that, “Malcolm Turnbull better tell his Queensland colleagues to pull their heads in because without the return of sensible tree clearing laws he won’t meet the emissions targets he signed up to in Paris”
Ms Trad said Labor is to take the issue to the next election but don’t imagine for one minute that the resulting defeat will cause her to recognise a mandate for the contrary case once the ALP is defeated.