Esperance farmer released from prison

28 Oct, 2010 10:54 AM
Maxwell Szulc after the funeral for property rights, following his release from prison.
Maxwell Szulc after the funeral for property rights, following his release from prison.

MUNGLINUP farmer Maxwell Szulc was released from prison on Monday after serving three months for contempt of court.

Mr Szulc was jailed after he ignored repeated warnings from the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) regarding the clearing of native vegetation from his 930 hectare property near Esperance.

Although he had cleared a total of 345ha of native vegetation, it was the 40ha Mr Szulc cleared after he was issued with a vegetation conservation notice that landed him in jail.

After his release from Wooroloo prison, Mr Szulc joined supporters at a funeral for private property rights on the steps of Parliament House.

* Click the image below to be taken to our photos from the event.

The funeral was organised by Janet and Matt Thompson, Narrogin, to draw attention to what they believe is the erosion of property rights across a range of areas, including native vegetation clearing.

Mr Szulc was welcomed by the crowd of supporters, including NSW farmer Peter Spencer, who spent 52 days up a tower without food last year to draw attention to property rights.

Mr Szulc said the crowd of supporters showed that there was interest in his case, particularly from people who had been burnt themselves in their dealings with the DEC and others.

"This is the beginning of potential change," he said.

"It's not going to be very hard at all for the Premier to make that change.

"There's only one small thing in the Environmental Protection Authority Act relative to the native vegetation law that needs changing, which is the essence of ownership of the native vegetation."

Mr Szulc said it was okay for the Premier to control crown land under his jurisdiction, but privately owned native vegetation should belong to the people who owned the land.

In order to avoid the same situation of getting jailed again, Mr Szulc said he would be preparing and filing an application to the Supreme Court to have the injunction for his breach of the court order amended or quashed.

"I've got lovely people helping me to get the legal documents done, to get it filed, and see when they can actually give me a hearing date," he said.

"It might not happen before Christmas, but at least it's something in the pipeline to deal with."

He also had to prepare for a hearing in February regarding the primary charge of unlawful clearing.

Mr Szulc said he felt relieved to be out of jail.

"I've got issues with the farm and need to get back and do the firebreaks as soon as possible," he said.

"I've got lots of stuff to deal with and need to prepare for harvesting."

Mr Szulc said he had great neighbours who had been invaluable in handling things on the farm.

"That's one of the beauties of living in the country; whatever's happened, we'll deal with it when I get back there," he said.

Mr Szulc said prison was okay and he found the atmosphere at minimum security Wooroloo prison a lot better than the maximum security Hakea prison, where he spent the first three weeks.

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Janet H. Thompson
30/10/2010 8:09:39 AM, on Farm Weekly

Jean, thank you for such comprehensive coverage of this important event! Private Property Rights are fundamental to the progress AND sustainability of any successful society. If I buy land with the oldest tree in the world on it, I have purchased the right to do anything with or to that tree that I deem necessary. If society treasures that tree, then society must purchase the right to that tree. That is, society must BUY the land on which that tree stands. We cannot make a tiny minority of our population bear the entire cost of our country meeting Kyoto Protocol targets. This is effectively theft, and it is wrong. Yes, the law has been passed (by each state under pressure from the Federal Government), but the law is wrong. Governments should not be able to take private property without due compensation. Cheers, Janet
Elizebeth Flower
31/10/2010 9:21:02 PM, on Farm Weekly

Many thanks to Farm Weekly for coverage of this unique event highlighting the lamentable demise of Private Property Rights in Australia. Thanks also for the excellent and comprehensive series of photos of the event. Janet has very simply and clearly spelled out the core problem in the issue. Traditionally, society viewed ownership of property and all that such ownership bestowed upon the individual, as an inalienable right. Usurpation of this right by government enacted legislation occurred almost imperceptibly, and because it has affected property owners individually and usually in isolation, the general population remained oblivious to this threat to the freedom of our nation. Indeed, erosion of private property ownership is an attack on the very heart of the freedom of any nation. Prior to the desperate 'wake-up call' by Peter Spencer, most of us were totally unaware of the disturbing consequences of the Kyoto Protocol. It is now imperative that all Australians be alerted to this situation and collectively call for full restoration of these rights before they become irrevocably lost. Cherished Property Rights need resurrection!
Rob Moore
1/11/2010 5:55:17 AM, on Farm Weekly

Exactly Janet, This can be summed up with- Community Benefit = Community Pays or similarly- INTERFERENCE - COMPENSATION A few examples- Want to shut a feedlot down that has all the permissions granted -Then compensate in full for costs and damages. Ditto for the MDBA greenie grab. If they must then every individual should be able to do a before and after Audit-then be compensated in FULL. As the Federal Court will decide soon- if you want to steal property rights to make a living,as in native veg lock up to satisfy phony UN agreements- then pay in full the costs and damages. The list goes on- Councils and their LEP templates according to the UN agenda 21. Reef Recue Plans in Qld to buy green votes. Heritage listings......anything!! Interference = Compensation. This is the only way this madness will stop-if the powers have to pay for their meddling as opposed to stealing by stealth!
Peter J
1/11/2010 7:00:27 AM, on Farm Weekly

The jailing of Maxwell Szulc is a blot on our society. There was nothing in that action that addressed the very real problems that led to the situation. Property rights is a contentious issue in a world where we seem to be running up against the limits of our resources and (inevitably) challenging the idea that anyone can do what they like with their land. But the principle that the community pays for what is deemed a community benefit must be upheld. Unfortunately, in the area of environment, this seems to have been replaced by the idea that members of a few interest groups (who may be well placed in bureaucracies) can make individuals pay for the objectives of those interest groups. Weak politicians let it happen. We have drifted into the situation of living in a "corporate state" (read John Ralston Saul, "The Unconscious Civilisation"). Neither democracy nor individual rights matter much any more. It is only about control. Where once those who stood against the unjustness of the State might have been beheaded or burned at the stake, now their lives are simply smashed by destroying their careers or businesses.
John Cartwright
1/11/2010 8:17:59 AM, on Farm Weekly

It is a very sad day to find our fellow Australians are being jailed for doing no more than looking after their own property and making it productive for us all to receive a benefit from by way of more food or income for the country. I personly do not know of anyone more capable of looking after our lands than those who are the owners of it.
Liz Innes
1/11/2010 8:20:57 AM, on Farm Weekly

Thanks for this excellent report. This Farmer should never have been jailed and the country should be in an uproar over this. Also thanks for highlighting the loss of our property rights and our best wishes to the Thompson family. I dont think people of the land will tolerate this kind of treatment for much longer.
1/11/2010 8:41:57 AM, on Farm Weekly

The Victorian bushfires should have provided a wake-up call to all Australians of what can happen when bureaucrats determine where fire breaks can be established on private property. Besides the shocking human toll, numerous native animals also paid the ultimate price. City folk might find it hard to believe but sometimes property owners just might know best about environmental responsibility.
Emmy Kaye
1/11/2010 8:48:55 AM, on Farm Weekly

Thank you for covering this issue!
Farmers have had enough
1/11/2010 12:33:43 PM, on Farm Weekly

The tsunami of primary producers who are being loud and being seen now is growing. Thank you farm weekly for covering this - more media need to pick up on this - farmers are "fighting back". Must have read the "tsunami" reference on another good article somewhere.
1/11/2010 5:18:24 PM, on Farm Weekly

Every Aussie should see this funeral service, and ponder about their future. I am going to die happy. A 20 year old promised me she would speak out against politcial correctness and dumb legislation.
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