A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).



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In Australia if you try to clear a firebreak on your land you could go to gaol

Maxwell Szulc

As Greens blame coal miners and SUV drivers for contributing to firestorms that destroy houses, ponder that one man tried to reduce the risk of fires and cleared firebreaks on his property in WA in 2011 and is currently in jail for it, serving a 15 month sentence. Most of the cleared land had been cleared before in 1970 or 1983. This was mere scrubby regrowth. He was trying to separate his property from DEC (Dept of Environment and Conservation) managed land with a 20m wide fire-break. He is due out of jail sometime around Feb 10th, though his government minders have not even fixed that date (are they having trouble calculating “15 months”?) He had previously been jailed for three months in 2010 for a similar action.

This was true civil disobedience. He knew what would happen. He felt someone had to protest and I gather he felt that at 62 and without children or a wife to support, it was his duty.

Szulc cleared his land as a protest. He was in contempt of court, he is in contempt of the DEC.

Some will say that Maxwell Szulc is technically not in jail for clearing […]

Thompsons Update – looking for work in the US, and pursuing DEC legally in Australia

Matt Thompson was asked for an update from a local reporter in West Australia, and sent this today:

Thank you for your enquiry. We believe that we were treated extremely unfairly by DEC. Through draconian licence restrictions, they made it impossible for us to continue operating Narrogin Beef Producers, after we had received all the required permissions and gone through all the proper processes before and during operation of the feedlot.

We were also in a dispute with NAB over their involvement in destroying our company. About a month ago, we reached a settlement with the NAB which included giving them possession of Narrogin Beef Producers’ physical assets. We still retain the right to sue the State over the destruction of our business, which we are still pursuing. This is our only means of attempting to repay unsecured creditors.

We are interested to see who ends up in possession of our former assets, as these assets would have no value unless the new owners are treated differently by DEC than we were. We remain deeply saddened by the destruction (including abattoirs) of the beef industry in WA, which showed such promise a few years […]

Convoy leaving from Perth 7am tomorrow (Thursday)

Janet Thompson, organizer of the Perth Convoy (the Orange convoy) writes to me:

The Perth Convoy departs Thursday 7am sharp at Belmont Racecourse.

Please come and drive with them for a short while just to give them a big send off on their long journey to Canberra.

Janet also says: “Hey, you gotta watch this!” It’s a Convoy wrap up on Youtube. Nicely done too.

Matt and Janet explain below in a youtube spot, why they are joining the convoy, (as usual, they selflessly don’t mention their own shocking story).

1 out of 10 based on 1 rating […]

Farmers fighting for a fair go. Updates on The Thompsons and Peter Spencer


Matt and Janet Thompson

They came from the USA expecting to get a fair go. They broke no law, ran a profitable business, spoke out as skeptics and now stand to lose everything.

It’s not one law for all anymore, it’s 33 subclauses on your license because you’re not politically correct. It’s sudden changes to regulatory conditions that cost a family business millions. Bureaucrats can break a popular profitable business. What has happened to The Thompsons is something I didn’t think was possible in Australia. I thought we elected the people who make the rules. I thought our media would cover a scandal. How naive of me.

A Federal Court judge has just ruled that these Family Farmers can’t even sue the Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) of Western Australia even though their license conditions were suddenly changed for no measureable, auditable reason. The decision is not good news, but Matt and Janet are not giving up. They will appeal the decision.

We can’t let Western Civilization be engulfed by bureaucratic fiefdoms. Matt and Janet could have taken the easier road and given up but they’re determined not to be beaten by the system, and if […]

Update from the Thompsons: The legal limbo drags on

The Thompsons have no income, but fight on with borrowed help.

Matt and Janet Thompson moved to Australia, got all the approvals to set up a cattle feedlot, invested their life savings, then the rules began to change. They didn’t need a license at all when they started. Then a paddock was called a watercourse, and apparently they needed one. They were turning away customers in 2007, but then Matt spoke as a skeptic and things began to degenerate. In March 2008 their cattle license was cut in half. The West Australian Dept of Environment solicited complaints, and green groups, funded with lottery commission assistance, advised locals on how to target businesses and cut their cash flows to destroy them.

The license conditions suddenly increased, Matt and Janet responded to every request, but no matter how many letters of support, petitions, surveys, studies or odour assessments they got, it was never enough. All the way along DEC kept promising verbally that uncertainties would be resolved soon, but each time the written information arrived, the uncertainties grew and the news got worse and worse. DEC has issued an unbankable license, whereupon DEC can declare […]

Breakthrough: DEC ‘s all-purpose (green) business licence

In a handy discovery The Department of Environment in WA have found a way to issue a licence that give businesses “all they could ask for” while at the same time keeping the Green complaints to a manageable minimum.

It’s the perfect license for politicians who want to have an answer for ABC radio.

Central page for information on The Thompsons.

1 out of 10 based on 1 rating

An update from the Thompsons down under

For all the supporters of the Thompsons, Janet writes to describe the kind of limbo they are living in. The eviction day October 15, came and went in a blur of work. They remain on the property only due to court injunctions, which have no certainty. Matt and Janet are their own lawyers — doing all the paperwork — with helpful advice from all round, especially Peter King. Legal suits were launched from both sides. The Thompsons are basically under siege, living week to week in their home, waiting, though not sitting still. […]

Donna Faragher: armed with unpublished complaint-mail and an unbankable license — destroys livelihoods

Donna Faragher, Minister for Environment and other stuff.

Some people have recently received replies from the Minister of the Department of Environment in Western Australia.

The ten second answer to the latest DEC excuses: The Thompsons License is unbankable; the Thompsons have already met the conditions; the complaints are unverified and often solicited, or relate to some other business, and Donna Faragher can teach you how to spell “business certainty” but she hasn’t got a clue what it is.

I’ve added my thoughts below, in between the full grey-box-quotes of the letter.


Minister For Environment; Youth

Thank you for your email to the Western Australian Government dated 22 September 2010 regarding the Narrogin Beef Producers cattle feedlot in Narrogin.

Good to see that through the magic of electronic communications it only took one month and four days to reply.

By way of background to your letter, Narrogin Beef is one of 44 licensed or registered cattle feedlots in Western Australia. The Narrogin Beef feedlot is the only feedlot in Western Australia which has been the subject of significant and ongoing community complaints about unreasonable odour. […]

Funeral for Property Rights

UPDATED: Dates for the West Australian Speaking Tour below

Magna Carta

The Thompsons protest on Monday was moving. Janet Thompson delivered one of the best speeches I’ve heard at a protest. I was going to copy parts of it and attach the full speech in documents. But so much is worth saying, I’ve put it here almost in entirety.

In Part I – Janet reads the eulogy to “property rights”: from the Magna Carta til Maxwell Szulc was put in jail for clearing firebreaks on his own land.

In Part II –– she recalls those who are not with us, and then those who are. Government infringements on rights destroys lives, and breaks up families. Janet gives us brief examples of other travesties unfolding.

In Part III — Matt reminds us that the government encroachment affects us all, contributes to suicides and points out that we bow daily to the UN. Every other time people have been subjected to centralized, unelectable power, the death toll has mounted. Now we are now presumed guilty until we prove our innocence.

Matt quotes Ayn Rand:

““When you see that trading is […]

DEC, deceptive, duplicitous, or just clueless about money?

The DEC fight back with deception, bogus licenses (that no bank will loan money against), ask for things that have already been done, and turns a blind eye to the killer fine print clauses that make them kingmakers with veto rights over any business in the State.

This is a PR war, and the DEC response (below) is obviously designed to confuse the issue and slow down people who are asking questions. Instead of serving the people, they are deceiving the people. Shouldn’t we expect to get an honest reply from our “public servants”?

With all the emails headed into the WA Parliament about the Thompsons, people were asking DEC very awkward questions. In response DEC produced this reply (below). On face value, local parliamentarians might read that, and think this issue is resolved. Not so. Nothing had changed. DEC either naively don’t understand the World of Business, or worse, they do understand it, and are maliciously using it against their chosen targets.

DEC declare they’ve given the Thompsons a five year license for 10,000 head — but the fine print catch is that condition A1 makes it unbankable — no one would loan the Thompsons money to run […]