Tasmanian ‘hybrid company’ tries compulsory land grab
By TONY MOBILIFONITIS
A Tasmanian irrigation water company that claims to be state-owned but is registered as a private company at the same time is trying to compulsorily take land from farmers in the north of the state for irrigation and hydro dams.
The Tasmanian Farmers and Graziers Association (TFGA), has responded by calling for a review of the state’s compulsory land acquisition laws that apparently allow government and publicly owned businesses such as Tasmania Networks, Hydro Tasmania and Tasmanian Irrigation have the power to acquire land under the Land Acquisition Act 1993 for infrastructure projects. Hydro Tasmania is listed in the Australian Business Register as “other incorporated entity”.
But Cairns News has been told by a Victorian-based researcher that because Tasmanian Irrigation is a private company, it does not have the power under the Commonwealth Constitution Sect.51(xxxi) to compulsorily acquire land.
The Constitution does not imply that anyone other than a government has such power, and under Sect. 109 of the same Constitution, if a law of a state is inconsistent with a law of the Commonwealth “the latter prevails to the extent of the inconsistency”.
State laws that give “private business entities” the power to compulsorily acquire land are clearly inconsistent with Sect.51 (xxxi) constitutional law and should therefore be tested in the High Court.
As our researcher notes: “Companies and corporations’ sole business is making a profit for their shareholders, and no company can have any jurisdiction over anyone else-company or private individual-unless via contract.” He added that no such scenario existed in the case of the Tasmanian farmers.
Tasmanian Irrigation approached one farmer and said they wanted to use his paddock 50 metres from his front door for an irrigation dam, fed by a channel that carries water from the nearby hydroelectric power station.
The dam would feed an irrigation project, from which farmers and growers would buy water. But the farmer told the ABC that Tasmanian Hydro-owned re-regulation pond which stored three times as much water was is only 5 kilometres away from the site and a better option.
Tasmanian Irrigation claims the 30-metre difference in elevation between the hydro pond and the farmer’s property would mean higher water pumping costs, i.e. less profit for their water selling private business.
Cairns News suggests Tasmania’s Liberal Party government wake up, roll back the boundaries of the ludicrous World Heritage areas and reinstate the Franklin River hydro scheme, which would provide the state with all the extra water and power needed by horticulture and other industries. Another hydro scheme would also negate the need for importing expensive electricity from Victoria on the Marinus Link inter-connector.
TasNetworks, another private company claiming to have the power of compulsory acquisition, is planning 220km of high-voltage power lines cutting directly across farms from Burnie to the Northern Midlands.
According to Tasmanian Irrigation Pty Ltd, it is “a recognised economic enabler that owns, operates, designs and develops irrigation schemes to deliver high-surety irrigation water to Tasmanian landowners”.
“A State-owned Company, Tasmanian Irrigation is renowned for its proven ability to reliably and cost effectively deliver irrigation water, as well as complex infrastructure projects, to enable farmers to expand, diversify and value add their agricultural businesses.”
Working for Tasmania’s economic prosperity is all very commendable, but perhaps Tasmanian Irrigation could explain to the state’s farmers who the private interests are behind its operations and how a “state-owned company” can also be a “private company” at the same time.