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Government theft

By Justin Jefferson - posted Tuesday, 29 December 2009

On Friday, December 18, I joined the protest of over 80 people at Peter Spencer's property, up in the mountains near Cooma. Mr Spencer, 61, was then past the 28th day of his hunger strike, perched high above the ground on a communications tower on his property. Looking down from his eyrie with baleful eye, he seemed at first somewhat curious and disheveled, but when he spoke he was lucid, his arguments were cogent, and passions ran high.

Mr Spencer is demanding the Australian government pay fair compensation to him and all Australian property-holders whose property rights were taken without compensation pursuant to the Kyoto Protocol. He also demands a Royal Commission into the way governments acquired those property rights, because it seems to have been deliberately intended to, and did, subvert the constitutional protection against the unjust acquisition of property.

But why, you might ask, is Mr Spencer directing his fire at the Federal government, since it was the State government, through the Native Vegetation Act (NVA) that passed the laws restricting farmers’ use rights? The answer is because the federal government moved the states for, benefited from, and paid the states to make these unjust acquisitions.


The Commonwealth decided to meet its Kyoto Protocol targets to reduce so-called greenhouse gas emissions by restricting farmers’ land use across Australia. Farmers obviously made an easy target compared, for example, to power stations or other targets.

Under the Australian Constitution, if the Commonwealth wants to acquire a person’s property, it must do so on just terms, i.e. pay fair compensation. Since land-use rights form part of the equity of a property, therefore the taking of land-use rights, and vesting the control and benefit of them in government bodies, is in effect a compulsory acquisition of property rights.

To give you some idea of the scale, Mr Spencer's property is 12,000 acres, the use-rights of which were in effect confiscated along with his livelihood. One farmer there told me that these laws cost him $30,000 a year. Another landowner I know lost $1.2 million worth of equity from a 40-acre block of land.

So just think of the whole of Australia, and you can see that the value of the property rights thus forcibly acquired without payment, from the entire landscape of property-holders, must run into the billions of dollars.

Faced with the problem of coveting other people’s property but not wanting to pay for it, what did the fed do? It got the states to take it instead, because unlike the federal Constitution, the state Constitutions, except for one, contain no provision for the payment of fair compensation for the taking of property. New South Wales legislation requires it, but the NSW State simply overrode it with ordinary legislation, smacking of rule by decree.

The mechanism was the Commonwealth Natural Heritage Trust of Australia Act’s cash for laws by which the Commonwealth gave their accomplices in NSW $1.2 billion that it got from the sale of Telstra, for its part in stealing billions of dollars worth of other people's property.


So Mr Spencer’s case is this. He can't sue the Commonwealth because although it sponsored the acquisitions of property, acquired the benefit for their purposes, and is constitutionally liable to pay compensation, the fed didn't actually do the deed itself.

And he can't sue the state because although it was its actions that acquired his property rights, it isn't legally liable to pay for it.

In the High Court, the Commonwealth is arguing against Mr Spencer that the Constitution was not intended to protect against forced acquisitions of property by the executive arm of government! The absurdity, or dishonesty, of this argument should be obvious, for if it were accepted, it would make the very idea of private property and constitutional and limited government meaningless.

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About the Author

Justin Jefferson is an Australian who wishes to show that social co-operation is best and fairest when based in respect for individual freedom.

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