Bob Brown’s legal costs

10 June, 2009

This is going to be almost completely two pastes from other sites as I think they explain it better than I can. I find it bizarre that someone can win a legal case on solid legal grounds, then see it undermined by legislative change and then have to pay the costs for it!

From yesterday’s Crikey:

The possible bankruptcy of Greens Senator Bob Brown as a consequence of Forestry Tasmania’s demand for legal fees would be a victory from beyond the political grave for Paul Lennon and John Howard and a big win for the Tasmanian Government’s efforts to stymie scrutiny of its forestry practices.

Brown needs to find over $239,000 by 29 June or face bankruptcy proceedings initiated by Forestry Tasmania’s lawyers Page Seager. Under the Constitution, Brown would be forced to give up his Senate seat if declared bankrupt, leaving the choice of a replacement in the hands of the Tasmanian Government.

The legal saga surrounding logging in the Wielangta Forest is lengthy and complicated (the Senate Environment committee has an excellent summary) but revolves around a simple fact: John Howard and Paul Lennon changed the rules after Brown won in court to nullify his Federal Court win over Forestry Tasmania.

Brown took Federal Court action in 2005 to prevent logging in the Wielangta Forest north-east of Hobart. Brown’s case centred on the interaction of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and Regional Forestry Agreements which allowed states and logging companies to avoid the impact of the EPBC if the Agreement provided for protection for significant species.

Brown argued that logging in the Wielangta Forest was not in accordance with the protection measures described in the relevant RFA and therefore the protections of the EPBC — in essence, that logging needed Commonwealth approval — applied. In December 2006, Federal Court Justice Marshall awarded a comprehensive victory to Brown, declaring that there was evidence the logging was harming three major protected species (the Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle, the broad-toothed stag beetle and the swift parrot) and that the relevant protective measures, based around a reserve system, did not comply with the RFA clause.

Forestry Tasmania immediately appealed and nearly a year later, three Federal Court justices rules that the mere existence of a reserve system was sufficient to meet the requirements of the RFA, regardless of whether the reserve system actually protected any species or not. Marshall’s findings that the logging had damaged the three protected species still stood (and stand).

Brown appealed to the High Court, but by then John Howard and Paul Lennon had conspired to remove the basis for the legal action. On 23 February 2007, Howard and Lennon had agreed to amend the relevant RFA so that the clause.

The State agrees to protect the Priority Species listed in Attachment 2 (Part A) through the CAR Reserve System or by applying relevant management prescriptions was removed and replaced with a simple statement that the reserve system protected threatened species. In effect, Lennon and Howard were agreeing that black was white. There was no Parliamentary scrutiny in either the Commonwealth or Tasmania of the amendment.

The High Court refused to grant Brown special leave to appeal because the new clause meant he had little chance of success. It refused to award costs against him, but Brown was still left the bill from the Federal Court appeal hearing.

Forestry Tasmania is owned by the Tasmanian Government and has close links with logging company Gunns. Gunns unsuccessfully tried to litigate Brown and other environmentalists out of the forestry debate with a punitive lawsuit that has progressively collapsed, although the company is still pursuing seven individuals.

The Forestry Tasmania action, however, is a different matter. This is the Tasmania Government pursuing Brown for daring to beat it in court to such an extent that it changed the rules to ensure victory.

And from Dr Brown himself:

I and Margaret Blakers and all who have taken and persisted with the Wielangta Forest case these last four years, are extremely thankful to all of you who have donated or otherwise contributed to make this landmark case, right to the High Court, possible.

I have now received a demand from Forestry Tasmania for $239,368.53 court costs, as awarded by the Federal Court, to be paid by 29th June (see attached). Be assured we will borrow or raise the money to pay this bill (the reference to bankruptcy in the letter is because this would forfeit my seat in the Senate).

This is the last appeal for Wielangta and, as the 29th June deadline mandates, is quite urgent. If you can contribute, I thank you once again, for your generosity to Wielangta and Australia’s other threatened species habitats.

The link for donations is here. For me this is not about politics but about ensuring honesty of process. If companies are allowed to behave this way and get what they want, then God help us all.


The size of an ocean

4 June, 2009

One of my favourite bands, Oceansize, are finally on this fine land of ours for a tour, and what a show tonight was!! I would strongly encourage those in other parts of Australia to see their show if they have the time and opportunity to do so.

For my own reference, the setlist was as follows (lasted an hour):

  • Unfamiliar
  • A Homage To A Shame
  • One Day All This Could Be Yours
  • Trail of Life
  • You Can’t Keep A Bad Man Down
  • Ornament/Last Wrongs

An interesting take on swine flu panic

3 June, 2009

I read a piece today, “In a crisis, knowledge is not power” authored by the Brisbane Institute’s Dr Martin Leet. Some very interesting points made so I thought I’d share it. Some excerpts for the time-challenged:

  • While it is understandably a concern, the spectre of “swine flu” also demonstrates just how easy it is to whip up hysteria in contemporary society. Constant updates, often issued with an alarmist tone, force the subject upon people. The media dramatises every latest development, even when that development is scarcely noticeable. Amid the warnings of catastrophe, we occasionally hear that swine flu may simply be a variation on the constantly mutating virus to be dealt with every year, probably no more menacing than the normal flu. Swine flu is undoubtedly a worry, but it is very difficult to find a sense of proportion about it while frenzied confusion reigns.
  • In the effort to cover every angle, give a voice to every perspective, and attend to any and every piece of information, all that is amassed is an extremely jumbled picture of what is actually happening. […] There is a hypervigilance involved in the responses to these and many other issues. Whenever something happens, it is immediately documented, analysed and critiqued ad infinitum. This process is probably driven by a fear that we will be unable to cope unless we amass every piece of available data. But hypervigilance really amounts to an incapacity to think and act clearly, and it has become a characteristic feature of contemporary culture. Its roots lay, paradoxically, in the modern pursuit of knowledge and science, which was heralded as a way of freeing people from superstition and ignorance.
  • It is often said that knowledge is power. But we are overburdened with knowledge and information, rather than being freed or empowered by it.

A thought on climate

3 June, 2009

I don’t tend to wax on much about the environment mainly because others are more interested and do it so much better. I’m an odd mix anyway, because I get the distinct feeling “climate change” as postulated essentially represents more a faith or belief than a reliance on science, but I am also a strong environmentalist and I think anything that gets people talking about how to make less of a footprint on our earth, helping our endangered species, reducing deforestation and local climate impacts is a good thing. Back in the days when Bunnings/Wesfarmers was putting out these bizarre statements about reforestation and regeneration, my family managed to get lost somewhere near Northcliffe and ended up on a logging road where, after kilometres of driving through some of the most beautiful forest ever, the scenery looked like Mars.

Along that line I heard a National in Question Time point out (in opposing the ETS) that “Australia only contributes 1.4% to global emissions”. My maths brain got thinking and realised with 6 billion (approx) in the world and 20 million (approx) in Australia, we represent 0.3% of the world’s population. Are we really setting a good example to other countries by contributing 5 times our population’s share to emissions?

Returning to activity…

28 May, 2009

The time’s finally come for Interlogue to come back from its slumber and comment on the affairs of the state and world and the random views of its correspondent. My exile in RealSpace was productive – I’ve earned myself 2 TAFE certificates – but the world and the country have gotten interesting again and I occasionally get asked if I’m going to return to blogging. So, yep, here I am. With a brand new computer too – that will be the subject of at least one future post.

What’s changed since 2006? OK, the Americans proved us all wrong and elected a decent bloke as leader. While Bush and his occasional weirdness and turns of phrase were fun to laugh at, he was taking the world in a dangerous direction and, while I didn’t initially support Obama early in the primaries, I came to the conclusion somewhere in early-mid 2008 that he was the best hope at present for the US and he has achieved better than my expectations to date.

Australia’s federal government – we no longer have a government in an obvious state of terminal decline federally.The former Liberal government, once seen as almost untouchable, are now seen as beyond salvation, with a bunch of shadow ministers and a leader with no alternative vision but to keep saying “no” and to defend against all logic the policies of their rejected administration, and attack the Government for doing exactly what they did when they were in government (often requiring deft backflips and incredible dodges). The poll numbers do not to me suggest a hugely above-all-expectations successful Government, they indicate an Opposition which has failed the democratic process by not putting forward an agenda of any kind.

However, the Rudd government hasn’t delivered quite as its supporters expected – perhaps due to the precarious Senate situation where, thanks to the unexpected 2004 election result, the Coalition can still give them pain. The biggest controversies, strangely enough, are issues where Labor is not being left enough for the public to tolerate. The apology, though, was a big step forward – maybe they will put some action behind it and abandon the intervention, which was simply an attempt by Howard to create a Tampa 2007, much like UK record companies create {insert 80s song here} 2008 with a few new mixes to squeeze a few more bucks out of their geriatric artists.

The WA government bored everyone despite doing well, had a top level management who clearly failed PR 101 and then executed the worst election campaign I’ve ever seen by an incumbent government (right down to failing to activate the base, leaving all its big announcements – none of which were THAT big – to the last week, and running hamfisted local campaigns with untested candidates) which saw nobody win and the Liberals and Nationals fill the vacuum of power. They’ve since been very good at figuring out what to cut or what fish licences to issue, but not very good at governing (in fact, I’ve yet to see them try).

And amidst the yawn value, the failing media present us with folk heroes like Corey Worthington, Clare Werbeloff and the likes – people so desperate to be famous and a media so desperate and bankrupt as to want to assist them. Never mind that poor 13 year old kid from a council estate in the UK whose entire sexual history (and his partner’s sexual indiscretions with other boys) became worldwide topics of discussion. I’m not pretending the media used to be better – we after all had Wawa, the Paxtons and cash for comment – but I think the Internet and the instantaneous nature of communication makes it more obvious today when the emperor has no clothes.

Anyway, signing off. Will be back soon with something more substantial at the weekend.

Andrew, enjoying the great British summer?

30 August, 2007

Rather random for a comeback, I guess, but the title of this post originates from a delightful email I received from a bus company. Clearly unable to recognise from the .au in my email address (given I’m fairly sure no human being ever saw this email prior to my receipt of it) that I am, short of secret possession of either a lot of stowed away cash or a teleporter, completely unable at present to enjoy the great British summer (who said it was great anyway? this site suggests it’s not exactly balmy…)

Which brings me to the entire question of how they got my email address – I once enquired about one of their fares. Note – enquired. Not bought. 3½ years ago. Unless an hour in Heathrow Airport trying to find my way around and buying a copy of the Guardian (which I suppose is a somewhat British thing to do) counts as visiting England, I’ve never been in the country long enough to use their bus service.

I think the thing that always kept international junk mail from getting preposterous was the cost. Mind you, it took me 4 years to stop Canada Post (known in our household as “Mail Poste” as that was what was written on the front of their garishly coloured stamp bulletins) from sending us stuff after we once ticked “yes” on an Australia Post offer to send us information about stamps back in the early 90s. Unfortunately with the advent of mass email, it’s entirely possible to spam one’s customers endlessly with offers of things they couldn’t buy even if they wanted to, no matter how cheap they are, for reasons like being 14,582 kilometres from their base of operations through no fault of their own.

This, for the record, is the same company who nearly brought Melbourne’s public transport to its knees when they decided that running away and paying fines for defaulting was better for their international business plans than running the train/tram service as they were contracted to do (I’ll leave the merits of radical privatisation of public transport services to another rant post). So I’m not absolutely sure I can trust them with my £2 fare to start with.

If, however, you are enjoying the great British summer (balmy or otherwise) and reading this, I wish you the best. For the rest of you, I’m hoping to get this blog going again, it’s been in hiatus for far too long as I’ve had so many things to occupy my time. I’ve been asked by a few people what I think of Rudd and various polls indicating at different times precisely opposite things for no good reason, as well as goings on in Western Australia, the daylight saving debate, and other such things.

Andren (Independent) bid for NSW Senate

2 April, 2007

Andren bid for Senate

Federal Independent Member for Calare Peter Andren has announced he will stand for the Senate at the next federal election.

“After lengthy consideration of my options, I have decided I can best use my parliamentary skills to represent the whole state as a Senator for NSW,” Mr Andren said.

“Almost 12 months ago, long before the recent redistribution of electoral boundaries, I discussed with the Clerks of both Houses of Parliament the process involved in running for the Senate.

“I have thought long and hard about contesting a Senate seat since the 2004 election delivered control of both houses to the government. I believe our democracy is best served by a Senate that is a true house of review, whichever party forms government in the House of Representatives.

“Since the last election I have been contacted by many voters who want to see a truly proportionally represented Senate which can act as a balance of responsibility on the excesses of government of either political persuasion.

“We had that between 1980 and 2004 with the good work of minor parties and independents such as Senator Harradine on complex issues such as the GST, native title and workplace reforms.

“I believe the electorate strongly wants that close examination and amendment of legislation to be restored.

“This has not been an easy decision, but the effective abolition of the seat of Calare with its splitting into two has made that decision easier. I can now try to continue to represent all my current constituents as well as the rest of the state.

“I will not be actively campaigning for any Senate election until my duties cease as the Member for Calare on the dissolution of the current parliament. Until then, my staff and I will continue to serve the people of Calare right up until the next election,” Mr Andren said.

This guy is one of the few honest men left in politics, I’ve had dealings with him in the past and I wish him the best – and that I lived in NSW so I could vote for him.