Lightning Ridge landholders defend mining access claims
Lightning Ridge landholders defend mining access claims
The AFFF supported two landholders in a case in the NSW Land and Environment Court involving claims for access to their land by opal miners in the region. As the first case of its kind, it was important that the farmers’ voice be heard, so that principles dealing with mining rights over farm land are fair. Legal action was taken after attempts to reach agreement with the miners failed. Under State legislation, the NSW Government can determine access management plans to regulate mining access of this kind, and if it does, legal action can be avoided. Regrettably, the NSW Government chose not to play its part, leaving the landholders with little option but to defend their position in Court.
AFFF funds live export class action
In October 2014, a class action was filed against the Commonwealth Government seeking compensation for losses suffered when the live export industry was shut down by the Federal Government in June 2011. The effect of the ban was devastating on many Australian cattle producers and businesses servicing the live export industry and the effects continue to be felt. The Australian Farmers’ Fighting Fund (AFFF) has supported the case, involving members of the Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association, all the way to Court.
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The AFFF supported Peter Spencer for many years in his battle with the Commonwealth Government over carbon credits and the property rights.
Mr Spencer argued that the Commonwealth breached provisions in the Constitution when using carbon credits created through the banning of land clearing to help Australia meet its Kyoto obligations – using the property of citizens to derive a benefit for the Government, without compensation.
AFFF helps farmers fight coal exploration
As environmental stewards, farmers are finding themselves under increasing pressure from mining exploration on their land. The AFFF funded the Caroona Coal Action Group (CCAG) – a collective of farmers in the Liverpool Plains – in a fight with Coal Mines Australia (CMA), a subsidiary of BHP, about land access arrangements.
CCAG sought explicit conditions in the access arrangements between them and CMA, attempting to ensure that any drilling was in line with good practice, that there was no impact on groundwater, and that there were appropriate make-good provisions in place. CMA objected to the conditions, and the matter went from the Mining Warden's Court, through the Supreme Court and the NSW Government, finally resulting in renewed negotiations between CMA and CCAG.
The AFFF stood by CCAG through both wins and losses, ensuring that the voice of farmers is heard loud and clear in negotiations with mining organisations.
In a landmark High Court decision in Kirk v WorkCover NSW & Ors (Kirk) in February 2010, the High Court overturned the conviction of a farm owner for work health and safety breaches relating to the death of his friend and farm manager, who had managed rural properties for years. The friend was killed in a quad bike rollover on Mr Kirk’s farm. Harsh NSW occupational health and safety laws made Mr Kirk, as owner of the farm, liable for the farm manager’s death, with no right of appeal.
The AFFF stepped in when Mr Kirk’s resources were low, supporting a High Court challenge to the legal structure underpinning NSW occupational health and safety laws. Thanks to the AFFF’s support, Mr Kirk’s convictions were quashed and what the High Court described as a number of “injustices” to Mr Kirk and his company were undone.
In 1993, over 130 Queensland apple growers sought action against their bank after misleading information was provided to them about the financial security of a buyer. As a result of the information, growers supplied a processing company with produce in good faith, only to then find that the buyer was unable to pay for the goods. One grower was owed almost $79,000.
The AFFF recognized the unfairness of the issue, and stepped in to provide funding for legal advice to the growers, and to assist them in seeking proper compensation for their losses. With this support, the growers were able to settle the matter out of court, and ensure that such a situation did not occur again.
It's no secret that the system of evaluating assets is flawed when it comes to farms and agricultural properties. Often properties are valued at a high level, ignoring the fact that the actual income generated by the land is at a much lower level.
In 1992, two brothers in South Australia were shocked when the then Department of Education, Employment and Training demanded they return $20,000 worth of Austudy payments after their parents' property was revalued at a higher level – therefore making the brothers ineligible for the support they had received.
The Australian Farmers' Fighting Fund joined forces with the SA Farmers' Federation to mount a legal challenge to the Department – and as a result of their support, almost 20 other families came forward with similar issues. In the face of overwhelming opposition, the Department withdrew its claim, setting a precedent for future issues faced by rural students and communities.
In times of hardship, farmers face threats not only from tough weather conditions and isolation, but also from difficult financial situations.
The Stringers, a farming couple from South Australia, were facing over $1 million of debt after a bank loan they took out from ANZ bank blew out of control.
The loan was taken out under conflicting advice from the bank, which also didn't inform the Stringers of the full implications of taking out a foreign currency loan. Trapped in three years of legal action, the Stringers were in danger of losing their property when the AFFF stepped in.
With the AFFF's help through further legal action, the couple's debt was reduced to $250,000 and they were able to continue to work their land.
As a result of the case, ANZ formed an agreement with the National Farmers' Federation to put together a high level consultative process on similar cases, with other major banks also installing similar procedures.
Sometimes the might of the Australian Farmers' Fighting Fund is enough to put an end to bullying and intimidation tactics by other parties.
Ultimate Freight Services (UFS) was one of the largest freight services operating out of Melbourne. However, their business was struggling due to imposed conditions from the Waterside Workers' Union (WWU), which were costing them close to $200,000.
UFS were being intimidated with a threat of being black banned by the union if they didn't comply, but were aware that the procedures that were being forced on them were in breach of the Trade Practices Act.
UFS approached the AFFF, and gained a promise of funding if a legal case was to emerge – and just the threat of AFFF support was enough to quash the union's bullying. UFS started ignoring the imposed conditions and completing procedures in the legal and correct way, and heard no more threats from the union.
The Australian Farmers' Fighting Fund is not limited to individual disputes and issues – it takes the bigger picture into account, and is working to make sure that farmers are protected before issues arise.
In the early 1990s, the AFFF funded research commissioned by the National Farmers' Federation to examine the economic policies of the 1980s and to determine the mistakes and triumphs in order to analyse the recommended policies for the 1990s, and to ensure that the economy continued to grow and remain resilient.
The research, undertaken by Chris Murphy (then Director of Access Economics) and Paul Brennan (then NFF's Director of Economic Research), helped develop an economic model that informed policies for future short and long term goals.
Max Lancaster, like many Aussie farmers, was trying to get on with the work of the land when exorbitant interest claims from a finance company threatened to ruin his business.
Facing interest charges of $46,000 on a hire purchase agreement that he had fallen behind on, Mr Lancaster soon realised that there was more to the claims from finance company Esanda than met the eye. The hire purchase agreements had been rewritten by Esanda in a way that did not comply with the law.
With the help of the AFFF, Mr Lancaster took the issue to Court, which ruled in his favour and ordered Esanda to repay $40,000 worth of interest. This set a precedent for farmers across the nation, and proved that there is no fight too tough for the AFFF.
In 1988, the Elders Gillman wool store in SA was struggling due to conflict with the Storemen and Packers Union. After union workers walked off the job one day, Elders staff moved several wool bales inside to avoid water damage, causing the union to blackban the wool.
Owners of the wool, Michael McBride and Hugh MacLachlan were not willing to stand for these bullying tactics by the union, and moved to take the matter to court – a move that involved hefty legal fees.
That's when the Australian Farmers' Fighting Fund (AFFF) got involved. Always ready to back-up farmers in the face of unfair tactics and bullying, the AFFF agreed to meet the costs of two separate legal actions. Seemingly intimidated by this show of support, the union lifted the ban on the wool prior to the matter going to court.