Farmers should support Spencer case: QC

ABC Rural

By Michael Condon

Photo: Hundreds of people rally outside Parliament House, Canberra in protest against land clearing laws and in support of New South Wales farmer Peter Spencer in 2010. (Vivienne Nunis: ABC News)

Audio: Spencer needs farmer support: QC (ABC Rural)

A Queen’s Counsel is urging farmers and farm lobby groups to get behind the Peter Spencer court case on property rights, carbon credits and land clearing.

Spencer barrister Peter King says he can’t think of another landmark case like this one that is testing the powers of the Commonwealth over a farmer’s right to farm.

He says it has already been an incredibly tough fight, but Mr Spencer is determined to see it to trial, and he thinks it makes sense for the Farmers Fighting Fund to start funding the legal case again soon.

"They have said come back to us and I sent them some more reports on Friday so they can see the progress and see that Mr Spencer is still fair dinkum about taking this all the way," Mr King said.

"I think it is important that farmers stand up together on important issues.

"It will be a landmark decision either way and farmers and farm groups will be very much affected by any attempt to take away carbon rights or prevent land clearing in order to address climate targets.

"Farm groups have been very outspoken about these issues and they know any changes can affect their livelihood.

"The question is how far can governments not using taxation laws interfere in the property rights of ordinary Australians within the restrictions imposed on them by the constitution, which says that governments must not infringe on those rights other than on just terms."

Mr Spencer’s matter is set down for a full hearing on November 24 this year.

In 2010, the High Court, in a rare decision, agreed that the matter should be sent back for a full hearing in the Federal Court.

The case centres around the right of the Australian Commonwealth to acquire carbon credits from farm land without compensating the farmers or landholders.

Mr Spencer claims that state and federal governments colluded to introduce land clearing legislation to lock up carbon on Australian farms so Australia could meet carbon targets in the Kyoto Protocol.

He says the Australian Government should compensate all Australian farmers for the billions of dollars in lost revenue from the carbon deal and the right to farm.

The matter will be heard by Justice Gleeson.