This is Peter Spencer, he’s a farmer in New South Wales, and his livelihood has been stolen by the Australian government in the name of – you guessed it – “combatting climate change.”
That’s why he is now sitting atop that windblown tower you see in the photograph, on sheep farmland rendered useless by eco-legislation, starving himself to death in protest at his government’s callous disregard for his property rights. This is his 46th day on hunger strike.
Jo Nova from the Telegraph (UK) has been following the story closely. Here’s the eco-political background:
As a part of Australia’s commitment to protect native vegetation and to reduce carbon emissions under the Kyoto protocol, Peter Spencer and thousands of farmers like him, have been subjected to a government imposed ban on land clearing.
The saved trees are natural carbon sinks worth an estimated $10.8 billion to the government in reduced carbon emissions, should Kevin Rudd’s emissions trading scheme go ahead. But the farmers, who can no longer develop this land have received no compensation.
Peter Spencer is among the victims of this legalised theft. He first told his story here in 2006.
In recent decades, thousands of farms have become economically marginal and have gone out of business. What is not widely known is that this “marginality” has often been the result not of market forces but of government regulation. In particular, governments in pursuit of urban green votes have imposed a vast range of devastating new costs on farmers.
My farm is probably one of the worst affected in Australia, so I can speak about this with some knowledge. “Saarahnlee” is at Shannons Flat in NSW. Our northern boundary fence is the southern boundary of the ACT and its Namadgi National Park.
The farm consists of about 14,000 acres, about 60 per cent of which was cleared before World War II. When I bought it in the 1980s, I had been working overseas to earn the money to buy the place. Unfortunately, I was unable to farm it for some time so extensive regrowth occurred. When I returned to Australia to begin to farm, I found that various laws to preserve native vegetation had been enacted in the meantime, and I was unable to “reclear” the land.
I could have applied for permission to clear, but not only was it unlikely this would have been granted, at that time it would have cost us over $300,000 merely to prepare the necessary farm plan. This was because of the number of different ecosystems present due to the 900 metre altitude variation on the property. There would have been no refund if the plan was rejected. It should be pointed out that under the just-released regulations (December 1, 2005) this cost would now be paid by the relevant department.
The result was that I was left with only 800 acres to farm: not nearly enough to live off and a financial catastrophe. The bank foreclosed on our mortgage and at the moment we are barely hanging on, thanks to the help of our extended families.
I protested to the state government and was told nothing could be done. Our plight has received extensive publicity and it’s worth putting on the record that I haven’t received one message of sympathy from any environmentalist. It appears the Green movement is prepared to destroy the property rights of despised groups such as farmers and devastate their lives in order to achieve its ends.
The rest of the article shows that Peter Spencer was no whingeing slouch. As Jo Nova reports, he really did try everything before resorting to his final, desperate pass.
After the land-clearing laws came into effect, Peter paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to set up ponds for trout fishing. But new water laws ended that too (and also without compensation). Tenaciously Peter then set up a fine-wool breeding program, but the bushfires of 2003 (that destroyed 500 homes in Canberra, and native forest near Peter) meant that hundreds of wild dogs were forced out of burnt areas. They over-ran his property, killing hundreds of sheep.
Spencer gave a moving interview on ABC radio’s Counterpoint programme.
Every one of my projects is destroyed, every one of my…it’s just disgraceful, Michael, I just feel sick. I was just thinking last night, I can remember going off to court, day after day, sometimes the last eight or nine weeks I would come back, spend one night [unclear], change all my files, back to Sydney again. I spent nearly five weeks there non-stop the last two months. And I’d watch sheep dying in the paddock and I couldn’t go round and shoot them because I had nobody left to help me. I had to let them die on their own, just kicking and struggling because they couldn’t stand up anymore, nothing to feed them with, it was just unbelievable.
One of Spencer’s neighbours wrote to an Australian senator, describing the kind of man Spencer is:
I have known Peter since 1989 when I became one of the Spencer Family’s next door neighbours and the two families spent a lot of time together especially the children as living 42 kilometers from the nearest town..
In those days Peter spent a lot of time in the highlands of Papua New Guinea as he had various… tourism accommodation type businesses and had been operating them for 10-15 years prior to us knowing him. Peter is/was accepted as a Chief in one of the Highland Tribes in Papua New Guinea and has been known to be called in by the then Papua New Guinea Government to negotiate peace between the two… fighting tribes putting his own life on the line in these situations but coming out with very positive results. In 1996/97 there was a riot at his Hotel in Mt Hagan where rascals tried to rob and burn his Hotel, Peter was taken captive and placed on his knees with hands tied behind his back and a gun placed at his head, fortunately for Peter the gun misfired and in the rascals confusion he was able to escape.
Peter Spencer is an example to us all. I’m not suggesting we all go on hunger strike but we ought surely to emulate his clear-eyed courage in facing up to the greatest menace of our age. That menace is not, of course, the illusory threat of AGW which our governments so cheerfully use to fleece us and impose control of over us. That menace is eco-fascism. It’s real, it’s terrifying and it’s time we fought back.
I agree with Gerald Warner. The only way to get our message across that we’re sick to the craw of Green lies, Green taxes, and Green tyranny is to punish all the mainstream parties – and that very much includes Cameron’s Green Conservatives – at the polls.