National Farmers' Federation

Property rights in the 21st century: do they mean anything?

AT its upcoming 2010 National Congress in Melbourne, the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) is putting property rights to the test – especially as they relate to constitutional law and the increasing clash with mining and environmental interests. “Last week’s hearing in the High Court of Australia, financially backed by the NFF through the Australian Farmers’ Fight Fund, is putting a blowtorch to successive governments for failing to recognise farmers’ basic rights as land owners and denying them natural justice,” NFF President David Crombie said. “It’s a case that has sweeping ramifications for all farmers and, just as importantly, all Australians who think they own their land, house or anything else for that matter. The High Court could take months to decide if the case should be heard and, even then, it may have to run its course through the lower courts before being resolved… a saga with potentially years to go. “But that doesn’t change the political landscape or the day-to-day realities of how farmers are to plan and cope while in legal limbo. At our Congress in September we’re looking to navigate the issues so farmers can get a handle on where they stand. “So, beyond the legal issues, what do property rights issues mean for farm production? As mining and environmental interests converge upon us in a three-way tussle for scarce resources, can all co-exist or is a breaking point inevitable?” The NFF 2010 National Congress will hear from three high profile and outspoken proponents. Professor George Williams from the University of New South Wales, who has provided advice into the NFF’s High Court challenge in the Spencer v Commonwealth case, will discuss the legal issues. Mitch Hooke, Chief Executive of the Minerals Council of Australia – a central player in the mining sector’s battle with the Federal Government over its controversial Resources Super-Profits Tax – will address the mining-farming interface and its implications for the future of both sectors. Dr Don Henry, Executive Director of the Australian Conservation Foundation, will explore the relationship between farmers and the environment. Are they mutually exclusive or, as the NFF insists, are they co-dependent? “In all three fields farmers are increasingly uncertain about their future and their rights as landholders,” Mr Crombie said. “Successive governments have done little to allay concerns or clear the way. So we want to hear from the people directly involved… to understand their issues and find a better way forward for farmers.” The NFF’s 2010 National Congress runs over 6-7 September at The Grand Hyatt in Melbourne. Early bird registration is available online now for just $800 (including GST). Visit the http://congress.nff.org.au/[Congress website] for all details, including the full Congress Program. [ENDS]

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