Local farmers rally for Spencer
MORE than 440 frustrated farmers rallied at the Lismore Workers Club on Monday night to support southern NSW grazier Peter Spencer in his push for compensation for rural land clearing restrictions.
Mr Spencer, from Cooma, was on a hunger strike for 52 days on a tower platform, demanding an audience with the Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. He was unsuccessful, although he generated a groundswell of support in the process.
The Lismore forum attempted to make sense of the complex issues at stake – issues tangled up in a plethora of state, federal and international legalities crossing three tiers of government ... and then some.
At the heart of the problem, the speakers explained, was the decade-old NSW Native Vegetation Act which restricts farmers from clearing or developing their properties, upon which their livelihoods depended; while on the surface was the catalyst – that those restrictions had been used by the Federal Government to underpin $100 billion worth of carbon emission reductions at Kyoto and Copenhagen without any compensation to farmers.
In between were issues from water rights to human rights. Heckling farmers on Monday night declared it nothing short of a land grab and warning all Australian landowners to beware.
The state of confusion is not just reserved for farmers.
Traditional allies such as Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and the NSW Farmers’ Association have both received a roasting in the latest edition of The Land newspaper for their inability to clarify their positions over the issue.
While the first speaker, constitutional law consultant Kevin Thompson, had many in the audience scratching their heads, Lismore Nationals MP Thomas George hit the audience’s mark, declaring the laws must be changed.
“Federal, state and local governments must come together to bring back the right of farmers to farm,” he said to a rousing reception.
The meeting was organised by Goonellabah community advocate Marshall Fittler, who unsuccessfully attempted to bring a range of political, environmental and cultural speakers to the podium, although he did succeed in providing an effective platform for local farmers to voice their distress.