Sunday, 31 August 2014

Property Rights Australia: Hearing into new Queensland Resources Bill

Originally Posted by Dale Stiller on Evacuation Grounds

Qld parliament AREC Chair Ian Rickuss & Deputy Chair 
Jackie Trand. Photo sourced Qld Country Life
On behalf of property Rights Australia, chair Joanne Rea appeared before hearing at MacKay 20th August  into the Mineral & Energy Resources (Common Provisions) Bill. The following is Joanne's opening statement to the Agriculture, Resources and Environment Committee

Property Rights Australia believes that this Bill severely erodes many of the protections and rights of landowners for the benefit of resources industries. In fact we believe it to be one of the greatest abrogations of landowner rights since the Vegetation Management Act 1999.

Some of our concerns are outlined in our submission but it is not exhaustive. They are concerns that are shared by many landowner representatives and by legal professionals specialising in representing landowners. PRA highly recommends thesubmission by Shine lawyers.

We have heard the Premier and Ministers say, when asked about landowner concerns that the resources companies and related infrastructure will create very many jobs and the royalties will fund infrastructure. Such statements imply that resource development and landowner concerns are mutually exclusive. This is not the case.

 We are constantly told of the billions of dollars in revenue which will benefit the state and we are well aware of the above average wages and conditions paid to mine workers and contractors. However, landowners are approached with an attitude of penury and meanness.

If resource companies want a relatively trouble free path they should approach landowners with a fair offer of recompense from the beginning, negotiate in good faith, not waste their time, apply pressure, bully, ignore concerns, renege on agreements and use various other bluff and deception tactics. They should also be mindful of local knowledge. Lobbying Government for changes to legislation which erode the rights of landowners because they are getting resistance to their unfair tactics is unacceptable.

Landowners feel that they have been thrown to the wolves with the lack of protection of their property rights under pieces of legislation like this. Commercial agreements alone are not possible without built in protection when one party to negotiations is an unwilling party whose time commitment is a cost and the companies who have full time paid professionals. This factor is frequently taken advantage of.

The balance of power in negotiations with resource companies has always been in favour of the resource companies and changes to legislation including those in this Bill have eroded almost every bargaining chip landowners may have had and handed the entire box and dice to the resources companies.

The superior fire power of the resources sector has won the day with this proposed legislation and the property rights of landowners are being disregarded. This is not the treatment that we expect from any Government which should be should be concerned about private property rights which are the cornerstone of our free market system.

All in all there is too much left to regulation rather than in the legislation, there are too many things which are not defined and landowner’s rights have been severely curtailed. This legislation should be deferred and taken back to the drawing board. It is entirely inappropriate that resource companies have damaged their own reputations as honest and good faith negotiators and then ask the government to fix their problems by legislation which damages landowner’s rights to the enjoyment of their property. It is very obvious that this legislation was “industry directed” for the benefit of resources companies and that landowner rights will be severely damaged. PRA does not support the further erosion of property rights by yet another government. It would appear that there are no major parties whose philosophical principle is to uncompromisingly to protect private property rights, a valuable and recognised cornerstone of our society and the ability of businesses to operate securely.