Cross Post Quadrant: The Death of Property Rights

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

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16 Responses to Cross Post Quadrant: The Death of Property Rights

  1. Stackja says:

    Taxpayers paying for theft of property.

  2. Yohan says:

    Regarding water issue, this is nonsense from farmers who think they have a right to draw so much water that the Murray mouth never flows again. The Murray is literally a sewer by the time it get down to SA. Stinking, stagnant, brown water that one mouthful will make you violently ill.

    To buttress this bullshit, they bring up the fact that before settlement the Murray would sometimes dry up. Yes, sometimes. Yes in summer for brief periods. All other times it flowed.

  3. miltonf says:

    Turning citizens into subjects/serfs.

  4. miltonf says:

    Trying to take us back to the feudal system

  5. karabar says:

    The “long march” continues.
    Unless we wake up and smell the coffee, the right to own property will be just another pillar of freedom felled by the cultural Marxists.

  6. . says:

    There is plenty of precedent to support Spencer (going back to seminal WWII cases), but the last few decades of judges have made up their own precedent they can rely on. Kids running amok with no respect for tradition let alone property rights. Keifel is the only current judge on the High Court who I trust to uphold the constitution.

    Gaegler for example has an excellent pedigree but as an ex Solicitor-General – I expect him to be more versed in how governments can skirt around the law as opposed to what they cannot and should not do.

    I think French favours not judicial activism but assumes on “democratic” grounds that the governments are always right.

  7. RobK says:

    Thank you Alan,
    A well written piece.
    I think you completely misunderstand the issuance of water “entitlements”and the retaking of the same.

    I have had to sterilize 280ha, or about 20 % of my land “for the public good”. No specific environmental reasons, just “we no longer allow broad scale clearing.” (this is in WA, where thousands of hectares are cleared in the Kimberley for irrigation, and plenty of subdivisions on the coastal strip. Some have to pay standover offsets to the enviro-gestapos.)
    Alan sums it up well. There are many hundreds affected. The cost is huge and that is why it is a poison chalice for the polity. The legal fraturnaty seem to recognize this too and struggle to make the point in a forceful manner. There are some notable voices in the wilderness and some poorly funded private property rights groups that rely mostly on voluntary input.

  8. IRFM says:

    I have always been fascinated that the Wentworth Group has only been concerned about the MDB environmental flows post the establishment of the dams in the various catchments that form the Basin. As the summary below shows cessation of flows was forever present. Sure the water stopped flowing naturally when the rains did not come. When rain did fall the environment recovered. It is this point that the Wentworth Group so conveniently ignores.

    “The Federation Drought began in 1895 and reached its peak in 1901 and 1902.
    During the drought river systems across the nation suffered, notably the Darling River which virtually ran dry at Bourke, New South Wales. In Victoria, the Murray River ran dry through the towns of Mildura, Balranald and Deniliquin causing river transport to suffer or cease.
    Except for Queensland, most parts of the nation received reasonable rain in 1900 and early 1901, however very dry weather set in again across eastern Australia during spring 1901. The drought broke mid December 1902 when heavy rain fell in Victoria. Rain extended to New South Wales and southern Queensland, while northern Queensland had reasonable falls from December onwards.
    Economic depression and labour strikes added to the affect of the drought. As a result of the drought sheep and cattle numbers fell from 91 to 54 million, and 11.8 to 7 million respectively. Rabbit numbers increased to plague proportions, resulting in some farmers losing everything and walking away from their properties”.


  9. Titch says:

    Yohan is talking nonsense. He/she should visit the southern area of the Murray-Darling basin right now. Towns losing business because of “normal” flood water levels, that inconvenience the money spinning tourist trade in caravan parks, beach stays, fishing trips, etc. The water levels at the moment are not even as high as they will be if the “environmental flow” levels are implemented. Already prime crops are destroyed, roads are cut for long periods of time, and bridges are being pushed to their limits. Who will pay for the infrastructure needed if the higher flows are sent down? We have 2 interstate highways out of action for many days, causing huge problems for freight and interstate deliveries such as fresh fruit from Queensland and fresh vegetables from South Australia. Not to mention the complete cessation of tourist traffic and income for some towns during the school holidays, when these highways are normally extremely busy with traffic. Try putting the amount of water down the system that the hypothetical models are demanding, and the whole south-western area of NSW literally goes out of business. The comments from this person are ignorant and insulting.

  10. herodotus says:

    Spencer’s case is about Native Vegetation laws, I thought, rather than irrigation. But it is one of the most egregious misuses of government power, driven by the loopy left. It’s time the NSW government looked further than Alan Jones for sensible scientific advice on a range of issues. His intervention re dogs is appreciated, but on gas not so much.

  11. john constantine says:

    Their penelope perfect wong hated the Murray Darling basin community on sight.

    Destroying the deplorable and obsolete communities clinging to the old ways was a celebrated victory for the filth, not a side effect.

    Cut and paste from the link.
    “Mr McDonald said he was now driving up to 900 kilometres a week so they could get to school.

    “We have one property just to our east, it was 10,000 acres [4,046 hectares] with 5,000 megalitres of water that employed six families on that property,” he said.

    “It’s now 25,000 acres [10,117 hectares] with no water and there’s two single 25 year olds living on that property. Whereas once that property had 12 families on it. “

  12. Tel says:

    Who asked the environment how much fresh water it wants dumped into the ocean every year? How was the question answered? Did they keep a recording of the environment explaining its requirements? What language does the environment speak anyhow?

    I’m genuinely interested.

  13. John Constantine says:

    Without all the fresh water being dumped into the sea, the activists desal plant might accidentally drain the ocean when they ramp it up.

    Leftism, the mentality that proposes desalinizing seawater and pumping it inland over the great dividing range to make up for inland water dumped out to sea unused.

  14. Rob MW says:

    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.

    Alan – check your email – the attachment. Just sent through the Whitlam commissioned – Final Report – Commission of Inquiry Into Land Tenures (1976). The hand writing in the margins are purported to be that of Whitlam or someone of equal sleazy justification. Sorry about the file size – about 5 mb.


  15. Rayvic says:

    Yohan, you would benefit by reading Jennifer Marohasy’s report entitled
    Myth and the Murray: Measuring The Real State of the Environment

  16. a reader says:

    The Murray in SOuth Australia wouldn’t be stinking and stagnant if they removed the barrages that they put into force the lower lakes and Coorong to be fresh water. The river is naturally saline up past Murray Bridge. But this is South Australia, a place that insists on totally buggering around their rivers…with predictable results. The Onkaparinga, the Port River, the Torrens are all examples where they have modified the flow to such an extent that they’re the author of their own issues.

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