Australian Politics 2015-09-03 15:48:00


"Organic" farmer loses his attempt to impose organic practices on his neighbours

An organic farmer in Western Australia whose crop was contaminated with genetically modified (GM) canola from a neighbouring farm has lost his court appeal for compensation.

Steve Marsh of Kojonup lost organic certification over most of his farmland in 2010 after genetically modified seeds and swathes blew onto his farm.

Mr Marsh went to court, seeking more than $80,000 in compensation.

But last year the Supreme Court dismissed the case, saying neighbour Michael Baxter had not acted negligently and could not be held responsible just for growing a GM crop in a conventional way.  It also awarded Mr Baxter costs.

The Court of Appeal has now dismissed appeals on the case and the costs in a two-to-one decision.

Earlier this year it was revealed that Monsanto had contributed to Mr Baxter's costs while Mr Marsh's campaign has been supported by the Safe Food Foundation.

Outside the court, Mr Baxter said he had been confident of winning.  "We certainly never doubted all the way through that we were probably going to be on the winning side," he said.

"This should never have even gone to court because between farmers, we should've just had a chat over the fence, had a couple of beers, you know, this would've been all sorted out.

"He's an organic farmer, he can't spray, he can't use chemicals, you know he's got red mite, he's got aphids, he's got rust, he's got all the diseases in the world, does he worry about that?

"They blow over the fence, I get them all the time.  "Do I whinge, do I complain? No, not at all."

Mr Baxter said he had no relationship with Mr Marsh anymore.

"He took the hard line, he made the decision," he said.

He thanked the Pastoralists and Graziers Association for their support.

The decision was another blow for Mr Marsh.  "I guess what this has demonstrated is that common law does not protect farmers against GM contamination, that's obviously very clear," he said.

"This argument that it's like a leaf blowing next door or something blowing next door, it's quite ridiculous.

"This product's got a technology in it, it's got a patent on it to start with, so you can't tell me a leaf blowing next door or an aphid or a weed is the same as GM technologies."

Mr Marsh said he was considering whether to appeal to the High Court.  "It was obviously a two-one decision so they weren't all against us," he said.

Mr Marsh was asked whether he was prepared for the possibility of losing his farm.

"You've got to deal with what you've got to deal with - if you don't stand for what you believe is right then that's it," he said.

The court had sought to rule on costs, but that will be decided on submissions in the coming weeks after a request from Mr Marsh's counsel.  Costs are estimated to be in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Mr Baxter has said the funds he received from Monsanto were considered to be a loan, and the support was no different to what Mr Marsh had received from other groups.

Safe Food Foundation Director Scott Kinnear described Mr Marsh as a "hero" for "standing up" to GM technology.

Speaking outside the court, Mr Kinnear said the farmer would continue to have the organisation's support if he decided to appeal further.  "We have to sort this issue out, we have to sort it out either in the courts, or politically it needs to be sorted out," he said.

Mr Kinnear said Mr Marsh was already "down significantly on funds".  "He's lost his sheep, which was a significant part of his income," he said.  "We have to help him get back to where he was."

Pastoralists and Graziers Association grain growers' committee chairman John Snook said the decision had big implications for farmers.

"What it means is [farmers] can grow GM canola with certainty, they don't have to be worried about being potentially attacked and sued by an organic neighbour," he said.  "We have always stood by Michael Baxter and will continue to do so until this issue is completely finished."

Appeals Court president Justice Carmel McLure decided in favour of Mr Marsh and his wife, who were both appellants.

She found the interference with the appellants' use and enjoyment of their property was both substantial and unreasonable and constituted a private nuisance.

Justice McLure said Mr Baxter "had actual knowledge of the risk of decertification when he engaged in the conduct which caused the harm to the appellants". She said Mr Marsh was entitled to damages amounting to $85,000.

But Justice David Newnes and Justice Graeme Murphy decided in favour of Mr Baxter.

They said Mr Marsh's choice of farming operations did not mean Mr Baxter's lawful use of his own land "constituted a wrongful interference with the appellants' use or enjoyment of their land".

They also said Mr Marsh and his wife had "put their land to an abnormally sensitive use" and they could not "unilaterally enlarge their own rights" and impose limitations on their neighbours to a greater extent than would otherwise be the case.


Australian conservative Think-Tank praised for role in carbon tax demise

THE Institute of Public Affairs is in the running to win an international prize for its role in repealing the carbon tax.

THE right-wing think tank is a finalist for the $US100,000 ($A142,000) Templeton Freedom Award, granted by American non-profit organisation The Atlas Network.

A glowing description of the IPA's campaign strategy against the carbon tax, which was passed under the Gillard government in 2011 and repealed by the Abbott government in 2014, is detailed on The Atlas Network website.

The report lauds the IPA's influence in the Australian media landscape.

"Starting from the day the tax was announced, the IPA took an active role in the mainstream media to counter the misinformation that advocates of the carbon tax were peddling," the report reads.

"The IPA's research and analysis of the economics underpinning the case for the carbon tax appeared in print media outlets 209 times between Jan 1, 2010, and July 31, 2014.

"IPA research scholars also featured on radio and television stations around Australia, with 363 radio appearances between 2008 and 2013 and 261 television appearances in the same time frame."

The report praises the effectiveness of then IPA policy director Tim Wilson's efforts in representing a "contrarian perspective".

IPA deputy executive director James Paterson is quoted in the report saying revenue raised by the carbon tax was used to "grow the welfare state, subsidise politically favoured industries and engage in economy-wide welfare distribution".

The report concludes: "The carbon tax repeal has signalled that Australia is more open for business by eliminating costly compliance measures that served as a significant financial and time burden on Australian businesses and provided a significant barrier to entry for the energy market, especially for potential large investors."

The IPA will find out if it has won the prize at a New York event in November.


Leftists hate mentions of the Nazis (unless they are doing it)

Hence the complaint below.  They don't present any evidence that the comparisons are inaccurate though

Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott loves a rhetorical flourish, but it may be time for him to change up his metaphors.

In an interview on the Sydney radio station 2GB on Thursday, the prime minister linked the Islamic State's brutal techniques of oppression to the Nazis' attempted genocide of the Jews.

"The Nazis did terrible evil but they had a sufficient sense of shame to try to hide it," he said. "These people boast about their evil, this is the extraordinary thing." The discussion came as the Australian government weighs up whether to join U.S. air strikes in Syria against the group.

The term "Nazis" immediately trended on Australian Twitter, as people expressed their disgust with the comparison.

This hardly the first time Abbott has reached for the National Socialists to make a point.

On the same radio station in September 2014, Abbott made a very similar argument about the terrorist group. "We’ve seen in the century just gone, the most unspeakable things happen, but the atrocities that were committed by the Nazis, by the communists and others, they were ashamed of them, they tried to cover them up," he explained. "This mob, by contrast, as soon as they’ve done something gruesome and ghastly and unspeakable, they’re advertising it on the internet for all to see." ....

Surely we can agree it's time all politicians retired the Nazis from their verbal repertoire.  [What?? No more "Bush=Hitler" placards?  I guess not.  But will we see "Trump=Hitler"?  Seems likely]


Tony Abbott declares Australia-Indonesia ties on the mend

The resumption of live cattle exports is good news.  The arrogant Gillard nearly killed that trade off, causing great losses to graziers

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has declared Australia-Indonesia ties on the mend after Jakarta scrapped visa fees for Australian tourists for destinations other than Bali.

Mr Abbott said on Thursday the lines of communication between him and Indonesian President Joko Widodo had reopened despite the strains earlier this year over the execution of Australian Bali Nine drug smugglers Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan.

Indonesia has waived visa fees for tourists from 46 countries including Australia from October though a $50 fee remains in place for the most popular destination for Australians – Bali.

Jakarta is willing to scrap the Bali charge but its understood Australia has refused to offer reciprocal arrangements to Indonesian citizens.

"Occasionally there are ups and downs, but certainly under this government, there will be no gratuitous offence given," Mr Abbott said in Melbourne on Thursday.

Mr Abbott's comments also came after the live cattle trade to Indonesia appears to be recovering.

Indonesia cut quotas but reversed the move to head off a beef shortage, receiving a shipment of 2000 cattle on Wednesday with another 7500 to be delivered in September.

Mr Abbott said he aimed to develop Australia as the place Indonesians naturally chose if they were keen on an overseas education and for holidays in the region.

Earlier, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop ruled out changing Australia's no-exemption policy for tourists from any country following a breakfast meeting with her Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi in Sydney.

Ms Bishop said Ms Marsudi had explained Indonesia would love to provide Australia with visa exemptions to all destinations but only if they received reciprocity from Australia.

"Our policy is across the board, there are no exemptions," Ms Bishop said.

Ms Bishop declared the relationship "in good shape" and said she and Ms Marsudi had become "text buddies".

"Retno Marsudi and I keep in constant contact … much to the chagrin of our diplomats," Ms Bishop said.

Ms Bishop is a well-known adopter of social media and particular emojis.

Trade Minister Andrew Robb is expected to lead a business mission to Indonesia soon. It was postponed at the time of the executions.

Indonesia's Defence Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu declared on Wednesday that military ties with Australia were back on track after the setback of the executions.