The battle for Ningaloo Station


Ningaloo Station is a large pastoral lease about 130 kilometres south of Exmouth, WA.

The station has been managed by the Lefroy family since the 1930s. The Lefroys currently run the station as a camp site, dedicated to conserving this pristine slice of Australian natural beauty.

The Lefroys have been in a long-running battle with the Western Australian government over the future of Ningaloo Station. The current lease has been renewed from 1 July 2015, however a condition of renewal was that the lands minister could remove parts of the land to be managed by government, as provided for under the Land Administration Act 1997.

In 2002, the then-Labor government attempted to do just that. The 22 hectares of land represented not just 48% of the entire pastoral lease but also the lion’s share of the critical infrastructure, including watering points, laneways, holding paddocks, sheep yards, an air strip, workshops, and the heritage-listed Ningaloo homestead.

After initially agreeing not to excise land from pastoral leases in the lead up to the 2005 state election, the Coalition government is now attempting to do just that. Lands Minister Terry Redman has indicated that he wants to incorporate a series of local pastoral leases into the neighbouring Ningaloo Marine Park.

The land should remain in the hands of the Lefroy family. From both an economic and a conservationist standpoint this is the most sensible course of action, a point well made by Pastoralists and Graziers Association of Western Australia president Tony Seabrook:

“People up there who know that country and know it well.

“They are far better off to manage it than a government department working a five-day week with little understanding of how the rangeland works.”

Bureaucratic management of the station will not improve the environmental outcomes in this beautiful part of the world. Private operators are incentivised to manage resources well.

The Lefroy family has also spent considerable sums of money over many years improving and developing the land. They have the right to enjoy the fruits of their labour.

The Lefroys should be left to manage their own small piece of paradise.


Potato hero Galati loses court battle but vows to keep fighting the war

WA farmer Tony Galati

WA farmer Tony Galati

The Western Australian government restricts the number of potatoes that farmers are allowed to grow.

That’s not the start of an awful joke, it’s the incredible reality for WA’s potato producers.

I’ve previously commented on these absurd arrangements in WA. And after initial resistance, the Barnett government has finally relented and will abolish this antiquated tool of competition suppression.

In the meantime, producers like Tony Galati are being pursued through the courts for growing too many spuds:

Spud Shed owner Tony Galati has lost part of his battle with Western Australia’s potato industry regulator, but has vowed he will continue to grow as many potatoes as demand requires.

To his credit, Galati isn’t giving up:

Mr Galati said the State Government should be embarrassed for allowing a Supreme Court injunction against potato growers for merely growing potatoes.

“I can’t believe it. We’ll definitely fight back,” he said.

“I’m not afraid of going to jail.”


New ban on live betting ads to hit NSW in 2016


Back in 2013, the Gillard government started down the path to banning live betting advertising at a Commonwealth level.

A code regulating the broadcast of live betting odds during sporting matches came into effect on 1 August 2013 following agreement by media companies to be regulated by the Australian Communications and Media Authority after they were threatened with a broader legislated ban.

In a textbook example of the law of unintended consequences, the enforcement of the new code precipitated a significant increase in the number of gambling ads overall. Not to be discouraged by an obvious case of policy failure, the NSW government now wants to finish what Julia Gillard and Stephen Conroy started.

Seemingly without any thought to the fact that a government restriction on what ads a broadcaster can air is a clear attack on free speech, the NSW Liberal government will be enforcing the new laws from next year:

From March 1, live odds advertising will be banned during sporting fixtures that last four hours or less, with maximum fine for breaches up to $5500.


Opposing 18C reform would tar Turnbull’s government with the image of unstable government


Hal GP Colebatch’s latest article in The Spectator warns Turnbull of the danger to his premiership in opposing Senator Bob Day’s section 18C amendments:

Family First Senator Bob Day put forward a sensible compromise – to remove the vague words ‘offend’ and ‘insult’ from the [Racial Discrimination] Act but to retain the words ‘humiliate’ and ‘intimidate’ in the definition of offences – words which are at least relatively justiciable.

Despite his previous support of this, Turnbull said in Question Time recently that he would not be reopening the matter, and that ‘the government has no plans to change the Racial Discrimination Act at all’. This is the man who used his forensic skills in favour of freedom of speech and expression in the Spycatcher trial.

The Day amendment is supported by a number of government Senators, and was co-sponsored by Liberal Senators Cory Bernardi and Dean Smith as well as Liberal Democrat David Leyonhjelm. To have such a significant revolt right at the beginning of his prime ministership would be disastrous for Turnbull and would tar him further with the Rudd-Gillard image of unstable government.

Well worth reading.


Why Sir John Kerr got it right 40 years ago


While 11 November should be the day that we all remember the end of World War I and those who made the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom, today also marks 40 years since the Whitlam government was dismissed by Governor-General Sir John Kerr. An event, like Woodstock and Watergate, which is cited ad infinitum by baby boomers determined to re-live their childhood to the fatigue of the rest of us.

The Whitlam government was Australia’s most erratic and incompetent. The 1975 budget was blocked by the opposition in the Senate – a tactic Labor used 169 times in opposition between 1949 and 1972 (the only difference was that they weren’t successful). After months of political wrangling, with the prime minister refusing to call an election, the opposition refusing to compromise and the people stuck in the middle, the Governor-General commissioned Malcolm Fraser to form a government on the condition that:

(a) his MPs pass the 1975 budget;

(b) he not introduce any major policies while he was only the caretaker prime minister;

(c) the dissolution proclamation include 21 blocked Whitlam government bills so that if Whitlam won the election he could pass them in a joint sitting of parliament; and that

(d) he immediately call a general election so that the people could decide the government.

There was no coup – there was an election. Gough Whitlam lost the 1975 election by the biggest landslide in Australian history, and lost heavily again in 1977.

For this, Sir John has been treated abysmally by history, with his memory and actions subject to bizarre allegations questioning his sobriety, the alleged impropriety of seeking legal advice (are people suggesting he should have spoken with nobody?), and even the involvement of America’s CIA.

Sir John Kerr did the best he could to navigate the massive egos of Malcolm Fraser and Gough Whitlam, while also respecting the Constitution, finding a way for the budget to the passed and ensuring that the final decision was made by the Australian people.

His memory deserves a lot more respect.


High Court decides separation of powers case


The High Court today handed down its judgment on a case which tested “paperless arrest” laws, and the separation of powers itself, in the Northern Territory.

Relatively new arrest and detention powers in the territory added to the Police Administration Act (NT) gives a police officer the power to arrest and then detain a person for up to four hours without a warrant where the officer believes, on reasonable grounds, that the person has committed, was committing, or about to commit an ‘infringement notice offence‘. These offences range from the relatively minor, and somewhat peculiar offences, such as dumping a refrigerator or other container without first removing the door, to more serious public order laws prohibiting “riotous” behaviour.

It’s important to note that these powers had little oversight from the courts. Only after the four hours were up and someone was brought before the court was the judiciary involved. This formed an important plank of the plaintiff’s argument that the laws gave the executive a power to detain which was punitive or penal in character, and thus beyond the legislative power of the territorial government.

The court held that the four hour time limit is not penal, but administrative in character. However, the case does highlight whether such laws are appropriate. For instance, it’s unjustifiable to detain a person for four hours without recourse for dumping a refrigerator.

And while the power to arrest and detain for infringement notice offences already applies to 35 prescribed offences, the government can simply add more by passing new regulations. These laws deserve more scrutiny.

The High Court’s full judgment, and a summary of the case, can be found here.


Senate motion in support of free speech defeated

Nationals senator Matt Canavan moved this very sensible, agreeable motion in the Senate on Monday, noting:

(a) the important role freedom of speech plays in the exercise of public debate;

(b) that informed public debate requires the expression of different views, even if you disagree with them;

(c) that this nation has fought wars for democracy, for freedom of speech and for the right to protest; and

(d) that attempts by the Australian Greens and their supporters to introduce legislation banning peaceful protest from public areas is an attack on a fundamental right and should be opposed.

Somehow, this inoffensive motion was defeated: 29 noes to 29 ayes:


There was little debate prior to the vote, with Greens senator Larissa Waters (Qld) the only one to make a statement, indicating that the hostility to freedom of speech this time was due to the elevation of the right to walk towards certain buildings (in this case, providers of abortion services) without seeing something you disagree with.

It is worth noting that crossbench senators Dio Wang and John Madigan both voted yes to the motion. It’s very encouraging to see crossbench support of free speech generally, as it may indicate support for free speech specifically – including section 18C reform.


ICAC’s “abuse of the process”


From The Australian today:

ICAC investigator Paul Grainger arrived early on the morning of July 30 last year, with a “notice to produce” when he ordered sales associate Sophia Tilley and her boyfriend Stephen Wyllie to hand over their mobile phones.

ICAC officers Tim Fox and Sharon Loder took two mobile phones belonging to Ms Cunneen, a deputy senior crown prosecutor, using a similar form, signed by ICAC Commissioner Megan Latham on July 23 last year.

[Alan Sullivan QC] said the purpose of a “notice to produce” was to require a person’s attendance at a nominated time, at which point they would produce the requested materials.

It would be quite clearly, in my view, an abuse of the process to try to rely upon this document for an officer of ICAC to attend at someone’s house and then say, ‘I’m attending here, you give the documents to me’,” he said. The notice “cannot be used as a substitute for a search warrant“.

And yet, the NSW parliament is debating whether or not to give this lawless agency the power to launch its own prosecutions. The government has been pushed to amend a bill to specify that the power to launch a prosecution does not apply to ICAC unless it has approval from the Crown prosecutors, which is a marginal improvement to a bad law.

Let’s talk about abolition instead.


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