Australian regulatory attacks on modern agriculture have vastly reduced the capacity of the farming sector to adapt to new technologies and markets and have damaged the nation’s agricultural productivity.
In the case of the Murray-Darling Basin, Australia’s only really significant irrigated agriculture province, until recently farmers used about half of the rivers’ water. Inspired by fallacious notions, including that salinization is occurring, bodies of self-appointed scientists and activists like the Wentworth Group lobbied to pressure governments into buying a quarter of the irrigation water farmers formerly used. This water was then directed to unproductive environmental uses. Governments’ susceptibility to agreeing to such unfortunate policy measures was reinforced by claims of their appointed soothsayers, notably Ross Garnaut, who maintained that climate change will make irrigation impossible in the Murray-Darling Basin.
At least in the case of water, governments actually bought the rights from farmers (though in the spirit of Communist electoral victories, those promoting the purchases have sought to foreclose opportunities for successors to unpick them). In the case of land, farmers’ rights have simply been stolen through regulations that make the land unproductive.
One landowner who took a stance against this was Peter Spencer. The Federal Court of Australia in July of last year decided against his claim that the value of his property had been taken by the NSW government and the commonwealth acting in concert. Mr Spencer, who has appealed the decision, maintained that NSW had enacted restrictions on land clearing that had expropriated the value of the property and this process enabled the Commonwealth to acquit the greenhouse gas abatement obligations it accepted under the Kyoto Protocol signed in 1997.
The judge found that the New South Wales government had in fact “sterilised” or “taken” Mr Spencer’s land. She found that this took place sequentially from 1972. Under a process between then and 1984, the Soil Conservation Act had subjected 88% of Mr Spencer’s land to a prohibition or restriction upon clearing that rendered it unviable for farming. The State Environmental Planning Policy 46 – Protection and Management of Native Vegetation, enacted in August 1995 took the remaining 1,915 hectares of the property.
In 2007, the NSW government offered to buy Mr Spencer’s land for $2.17 million, which it said was fair value, given that its regulatory measures had all but eliminated the land’s productive capacity. A valuation Mr Spencer had had prepared put its worth at $9 million in the absence of the regulatory restraints on its use. The judge insouciantly suggested that “given Mr Spencer’s evidence of his current somewhat desperate and strained circumstances, his refusal to take up the exit assistance package could be characterised as unfortunate.” Read more