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.


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.

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.

Another view of the Rudd/Burke/Campbell/Bowman/Santoro mess…

18 March, 2007

The amount of mud flying around at the moment is utterly ridiculous and really not doing anyone any favours. Santoro had to go for many reasons, and I suspect his departure was hastened by links drawn between him and complaints leading to the raids on three lower house MPs. While I’m keen to see corruption exposed, I don’t think *that* particular incident was anything more than minor incompetence on somebody’s part (probably a staffer or two).

An interesting thing that seems to have come out of this – have you noticed how when someone finds something about someone, it seems to be there’s a neutralising, opposing argument that claims somebody’s job on the original firing side? It’s as if they hold onto these long term as a kind of investment and if someone breaks the silent code and releases something, they soon find out very publicly what the other side has on them (be it the other side of parliament or of their own party).

I hope politics gets back to issues soon – this stuff is becoming tedious and annoying and I’m sure I’m not the only voter (Labor or Liberal) who thinks that.

Nationalism on the loose… again

22 January, 2007

Firstly, sorry for quiet over past weeks. I intend to get this blog going at full pace again in about two or three weeks, but have had a lot of offline stuff to sort out prior to reenrolling at university for the first time in a while. Career changes are interesting, but a lot of paperwork.

Anyway, to the latest nationalist bait of the week. Apparently the Big Day Out, realising that some rather nasty groups use the flag for purposes other than that which it was intended (usually as an excuse to carry out entirely anti-Australian activities like maiming non-“white” Australians, burning down their places of worship, and other such wholesome activities), have banned the flag. All of a sudden the Prime Minister, Opposition Leader, NSW Premier, even the *Nationals* leader, have come out railing against the BDO, even calling for its banning. It’s starting to sound like the Camilla cheer squad from Big Brother last year all over again.

So I sat down and thought, after having attended 4 Big Day Outs and numerous other festival events (and never once having seen a flag there) – why would anyone *want* to bring a flag to a music festival?

1. I’m not entirely sure that a modern flag would fit on the Big Day Out rollercoaster rides
2. Flags aren’t cheap. It’s like wearing your best shirt to the weekend rugby scrum.
3. My experiences of being squashed and pushed into odd contortive poses in the front rows in past BDOs suggest that it’s not even a terribly practical way of showing one’s appreciation for the mostly overseas bands on offer.
4. Many of said bands would probably be quite curious as to why on earth people are waving New Zealand’s national flag at them, dismissing it as some odd local custom.

Gawd, you’d think from the intense reaction in the media to this that people weren’t allowed to bring beer in. Or water bottles. Or “offensive” t-shirts. Or food items. Or projectiles. Or deodorant cans. Or drugs. Or … wait, they’re all already proscribed. Funny, that. No beer! How Australian is that?

Thoughts (An update)

18 December, 2006

Thoughts on a number of key current issues:

Fiji – I am tired of the Australian government and media’s handling of the Fiji situation. I believe that history will eventually show what many of us who watch the Pacific scene already know, that Laisenia Qarase’s government was corrupt and racist, and was on the cusp of freeing George Speight, the guy who ran the last coup when his business interests weren’t being served by the new Labour government in 2000. People seem to forget too quickly that the hero of that situation was none other than Commodore Frank Bainimarama, who restored order and democracy in record time considering the bizarre circumstances. In my view, he has acted honourably in this matter and with a genuine view to fixing intractable problems that the constitution and democracy have proved useless in resolving (Qarase ignored the constitution for years in refusing to allow Opposition members to sit on Cabinet). The constitution Bainimarama has suspended was decried in the West as a racist document at the time of its formation, yet now the West (including Australia and, surprisingly, New Zealand) are condemning Bainimarama’s suspension of that very constitution. Alexander Downer’s incitements to violence from the floor of the Australian Parliament under parliamentary privilege, rightly criticised by the Commodore, show a government in this country that has as much respect for the rule of law and international diplomacy as they showed during the Iraq war. I think the coup is the best thing to happen for Fiji in some time, I only hope that the Commodore can control the actions of his men. One of my friends has refused to cancel her holiday there and from recent emails, seems to be enjoying the sunshine and the hospitality, cuisine and culture of the local people.

Rudd – Kevin Rudd has so far lived up to my expectations. While I don’t agree with some of the things he is putting forward, the fact he is putting forward a solid platform of ideas and benchmarks on a range of issues across the political and economic spectrum is the most positive thing the Federal Opposition has done since it lost the 1998 election. Howard is still a skilled operator and one mustn’t underestimate him, but I think Labor is really in with a chance in 2007. My own views on politics are that no party should be in too long at any level – especially if no serious opposition exists (as in WA at present), governments have a tendency to become complacent and arrogant. It happens to both Labor and Liberal governments and is symptomatic of the increasing polarisation of Australian politics and the weaknesses of the two-party system which mean it has to be one or the other, rather than the superior European systems which, although not always granting stable majorities, are true to the people’s wishes and ensure that politicians have to listen to more than simply their own constituency in the electorate.

Iraq Study Group – This was worth a full post when it came out but I was otherwise occupied. The actual report (519k PDF) is well worth a read, but basically it says what we’ve all known for years and requires something of a backflip by Bush in order to succeed – one that I sadly doubt is forthcoming. Colin Powell‘s statement broadly in support of the ISG report, that “it’s grave and deteriorating, and we’re not winning, we are losing”, is critical, but if he wasn’t listened to when in power, all this will do is persist in convincing a largely-convinced electorate that their president is aloof and out of touch with reality.

For more on Iraq, some very interesting comments at Didge – The View From Down Under.

Palm Island – Quick one. Why should murder or manslaughter be ignored by the law because the perpetrator is a police officer and the victim is an Aboriginal not being held for any major offence? This is a day of shame for the Beattie government in Queensland.