Time for equality for all owners
OVER the past couple of months the TFGA has been involved in discussions around proposed legislation and a proposed listing in the Environment Protection and Biosecurity Conservation (EPBC) Act. While some elements of these discussions have been fruitful, there has been an underlying common theme in relation to landowner rights.
What has become obvious is that while individual landowners have some rights, they do not have equality with other landowners – by that we mean the Crown in all its various forms, for example state governments, the federal government and its departments and municipal councils and their various subsidiaries.
It is a concern these land managers have significantly greater rights than those of us who own our individual patch.
These land managers, depending on legislation, claim no responsibility for boundary fences, no responsibility for invasive species and native species on the land, nor for the damage they do to private landholding neighbours.
They have capacity to deny or prohibit developments on their land – something that in many circumstances private landholders do not have, for instance in relation to mining.
They are more often than not exempt from their own regulatory controls. For example, industrial forestry on public land is exempt from the EPBC Act and, in a recent proposal for a listing, it has become clear that Crown land will be exempt. However, private landowners must bear the regulatory burden economic costs.
This type of uneven playing field should be unacceptable in any democratic society. We all know of regimes in other parts of the world where this is the accepted norm, but in a country such as Australia this distortion is not democratic, it is economically constraining and arguably erodes the foundation of the freedom and democracy that we all cherish.
This situation has been unchallenged because most people are unaware of it until they face a distortion of rights that has a direct impact on them. The concept that governments at all levels should have a higher regime of rights, no matter in what context, over individuals is untenable.
In Australia, where we strive for equality, surely it is high time we call governments to account. No one should accept the idea governments can compulsory acquire land, not pay a fair share of a boundary fence or not deal with pests on their land, and yet at the same time demand and regulate private landowners must do this.
This is not just a rural or regional issue, the distortion of rights applies equally in urban areas. It is is the community as a whole that should demand true equality from our political leaders. and the