FARMERS from across WA have taken the unusual step of holding a "funeral" for property rights on the steps of Parliament House.
About 50 people attended Monday's protest, which 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 bans, planning and licensing issues, heritage building listings, heritage listings, biodiversity corridors, wetlands and endangered species laws, water licensing and water protection notices.
* Click the image below to be taken to our photos from the event.
The Thompsons are calling for an inquiry to investigate the DEC's handling of licensing processes for their feedlot, Narrogin Beef Producers.
Administrators and receivers were appointed by the National Australia Bank after the Thompsons were unable to repay their loans.
Their property subsequently failed to receive any bids at auction in October 2009, which the Thompsons believe was due to the ambiguity still surrounding their licence.
Mss Thompson began official proceedings by remembering Private Property Rights, which "passed away in Australia on July 26, 2010 after a long illness".
That was the day Munglinup farmer Maxwell Szulc started serving his three month prison sentence for contempt of court after he ignored repeated warnings from the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) regarding the clearing of native vegetation from his property near Esperance.
Maxwell Szulc was whisked straight to the protest after only being released from Wooroloo prison that morning.
Also in attendance was Mingenew farmer Ian Broad who was recently fined $85,000 for clearing regrowth on his property after the 10 year limit since the original clearing.
Ms Thompson said Mr Broad was forced into a plea bargain to avoid a jail term for both he and his wife.
Ms Thompson expressed farmer concerns about property rights.
"Private property rights which existed within our sovereign nation's tradition of common law rights were the foundation of Australia's development into a successful trading country," she said.
"Assaults on our friend came in a variety of ways, through an array of non-government organisations, like the Conservation Council and Environmental Defenders Office, and government departments, like the DEC.
"The DEC has evolved now to such a point that it is hindering the very economic activities that support its own existence.
"Bureaucrats are now making decisions about what producers can and cannot do, without any basis in science or fact, indeed without consideration of true environmental outcomes.
"When non-producers have the power to tell producers what they can and cannot do, without that power being voted on by the people of our democracy, as is the case with regulations and policies, society is setting itself up for failure."
Ms Thompson said the friends of private property rights there on the day had experienced first-hand the very real effects of its decline.
"Many people had taken their lives out of complete despair," she said.
"Children have left the family farm due to uncertainty of tenure.
"There have been family break-ups.
"Several people suffer from severe illness due to stress.
"Some, after fighting for years, have lost all hope.
"I've lost count of the number of people who said they supported what we're doing today, but they could not afford to be seen or to have their name used for fear of retaliation.
"And many, after working hard and saving their whole life, having invested their superannuation into land, cannot be here because they've been forced to take jobs and are working for others."
Ms Thompson said a tiny minority of the population had been made to bear the entire cost of meeting emissions targets set in the Kyoto Protocol.
Supporter Julian Grill, Perth, agreed.
"The Commonwealth Constitution states quite clearly that there can't be any taking of property rights of from people without compensation and I believe the State laws should be the same," Mr Grill said.
Another supporter, historian Joseph Poprzeczny, said it was totally unjust for a minority to be picking up the bill for any form of conservation on behalf of the majority.
Graeme Campbell, Kalgoorlie, spoke to the crowd about his concerns about the erosion of civil liberties, and said it had occurred parallel to the rise of the Greens.
He said the Greens' preference deals with Labor had led to an increased push for government regulation and increased taxation, and the importance of economic control meant the government now approved anything with an economic base.
NSW farmer Peter Spencer, who spent 52 days up a pole without food last year to draw attention to property rights, also addressed the crowd.
"Under current laws, you're no longer able to use your land or property as an asset to generate wealth," he said.
Mr Spencer said the loss of property rights was partly due to the political reality that the Greens now had 50 per cent of the vote.
"It's nothing to do with the environment and that's why we get upset," he said.
Syd Livesey, Porongurups, said he had been dealing with the Agriculture and Food Department and Soil and Land Conservation for seven years, and won a ruling before the DEC said he had to reapply for approval.
"They are basically one department," he said.
Wreaths, representing six areas of concern regarding private property rights were laid on a coffin before a procession led by WA Property Rights Association's Leo Killigrew made its way to Cottesloe beach for the burial.
Peter Spencer addressed the crowd again before Matt Thompson read the eulogy.
The coffin was then buried in the sand.