The Hon Andrew Broad
MHR for Mallee
An open letter from David Millsom, Revegetation Practitioner, P.O. Box 1079 Castlemaine Vic. 3450, to the Hon Andrew Broad
MHR for Mallee, Parliament House, Canberra ACT
The Hon Greg Hunt
Minister for the environment.
Minister, the following letter to Andrew Broad MP Mallee is self explanatory. Mr. Broad is I (and many others in Northern Victoria) believe is acting in an unacceptable manner. In a speech to the Parliament Broad claimed that if his interference with this (and other) cases didn’t work he would take the matter up with you to get it “resolved”.
Broads speech contains many errors and I am writing to you to make you aware of the facts in this matter and to ask that the legal process is allowed to proceed without further interference from Andrew Broad or anyone else..
I would appreciate a response to the following questions.
Is it normal for a backbench MP to interfere in an ongoing investigation in the way Broad has done?
Is it your policy to allow backbench MPs to summon public servants to a meeting, at which Andrew Broad, by his own admission, tried to prevent a prosecution?
Yours in environment protection
A copy of my letter to Broad follows.
The Hon Andrew Broad
MHR for Mallee
Reference- Your speech on,” the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.” Hansard – page 110, Monday, 9 February 2015
Your speech to the house has raised several issues that I request you address.
I and people that have contacted me after reading your speech believe your latest statements raise serious questions about your understanding of the Trewins case and the broader (no pun intended) issue of the illegal clearance of Native vegetation.
In your speech you claim, inter alia, “a farmer who did something his father had done, that his grandfather had done-that is, plough firebreaks around his farm, but putting it on the road. This is something that had been going on for a long time in his family, but he did not know that on 8 September 2012 those firebreaks had become listed grasslands under the Environment Protection and Conservation Act.”
Your quote that “those firebreaks had become listed grasslands” is a nonsense, they were listed as grasslands and then turned into fire breaks by Trewin, which is why he is being prosecuted. Which bit of that don’t you grasp?
To quote you “I have thought long and hard about what I am going to talk about tonight”, I would suggest you should have thought longer and harder and you may have noticed the mistakes, contradictions and irrelevancies in your speech.
Trevor Trewins forebears according to you (and the physical evidence on the relevant roadsides) had historically established most of the firebreaks on their land. Read the report compiled by consulting botanist Dr. Paul Foreman for EPBC. Dr. Foreman showed that approx 62 hectares of the 100 hectares of roadsides relevant to this case had never been ploughed. Approx 22 hectares had been ploughed some 20 to 50 years ago, but were floristically similar to the unmolested sections. About 5 hectares out of 100 hectares had been maintained as a firebreak for many years and this was the only area allowed to be legally ploughed. The other 95 hectares constitutes an offence under the EPBC Act and State Government legislation.
Several more hectares of Native vegetation comprising wetlands and regenerating shrubs and trees were also destroyed, but as these are not part of the EPAC listing and are additional to the 100 hectares under investigation.
Trewin is under investigation for destroying approx 30 kilometers of native roadside vegetation that was protected under state and federal legislation
Trewin has allegedly admitted to several people that he knew that he needed permits from local government and the CFA to plough the roadside.
Roadsides are public property, Trewin nor does anyone else have the right to destroy native vegetation without prior permission from the relevant authority, period.
Your statement to the House of Representatives appears to be constructed to mislead, in that Trewin was NOT doing what his father and grandfather had done. You also fail to give any indication of the large scale destruction involved.
I can only be hope that most MPs have a better grasp on basic legal principles than your speech suggests you possess.
FACT – Whether Trevor Trewin knew that the roadsides were listed is irrelevant and contrary to a basic tenet in the law, that “Ignorance of the law is not a defence “ .
You spent a large part of your speech arguing that the law should not be applied to Trewin because he claims ignorance of the law, which is not a defence.
I find it inconsistent that the National Party campaigns on law and order issues, generally advocating for harsher penalties on one hand while, as you have done, on the other hand pleading exemption from the law when it suits your ideology.
Equality before the law is another basic tenet of our legal system. You appear to be saying that some people are “more equal than others” (read “Animal Farm” by George Orwell), and the law should not apply to your VFF mates.
Question- Please explain why Trewin should be placed above the law and not have to face his day in court?
I was astonished to read in your speech,” I thought I would be very wise and I would bring the department down to my office which I did.” Wise is certainly not the word I would choose.
You admit that you tried to get the Enforcement officers Gaddes and McLean from EPBC to drop the pending prosecution “and do some advertising so we could talk about it- how he did not know there is this listing- but all they wanted to do was punish him.”
Ignorance of the law is not a defence but again you seem to be pleading that the law should not apply because you don’t want it to.
Your behavior could be construed as interfering with public servants in the execution of their duties. This is generally frowned upon. I will be pursuing this matter elsewhere.
I and others were in contact with Mclean from EPBC late last year wanting to know why they had not acted against Touhey.
We were not aware of your interference with EPBC at that time. It was your own speech that brought your unacceptable behavior to light. I do so like petards.
Your harassment of and interference with the EPBC Act staff and their work is unacceptable. It is publicly known that federal Environment Agency staff are being bullied and intimidated not to prosecute even the most blatant transgressor, such as Trewin . This is totally contrary to principles of good governance. Behaving like a Mallee Bull is a temperament you have oft demonstrated, but it has no place in administration of the law.
Question- I and other members of the community want to know by what authority you intervened in an active investigation by EPBC enforcement officers?
The illegal destruction of roadside vegetation by, usually, adjoining landholders has been a running sore in the broad acre farming and grazing regions since before you were born.
As VFF President you openly advocated for weakening the native vegetation protection laws in Victoria, this is also the position of past VFF Paul Weller and current VFF president Peter Touhey. You well know Touhey and others have been interviewed by Campaspe Shire officers in relation to several kilometres of spraying and ploughing of EPBC listed native grassland roadsides in the Terricks. State agency has referred the case to EPBC who I understand had begun an investigation into Peter Touhey.
Some unkind people have suggested that you are fighting so hard to keep Trewin from facing court so your VFF mate (and my former neighbor) Peter Touhey does not face prosecution. People can be so cruel.
You seem unaware of how angry many members of our community are with increasingly blatant illegal clearing of native vegetation and the relevant authorities refusal or inability to act. There is mounting pressure from the community on Local and State governments to prosecute offenders. It is up to the courts to decide Trewin, Touhey and several other cases and any penalty. It is certainly not the role of a backbench newbie MP from a minority party to decide who is brought before the courts.
Could I suggest you take your hands off your ears and put them over your mouth for a while, you may learn something.
Your interference in these cases will be widely circulated to concerned community members, who I am sure will be in touch with you and Minister Hunt.
You talk of community education, as a Greening Australia Facilitator for 10 years I saw clearly that some people are driven by a sense of right to destroy native vegetation, or driven by their politics “nobody is going to tell me what I can do”, a very common attitude in the Mallee. These landholders will destroy vegetation as a political act. Some believe, incorrectly, that Native grasslands pose a high fire risk and, as you stated, remove it to protect their farm and them.
These people do not respond to education because they believe their self view over rides their legal and moral responsibilities. I have on countless occasions had variations on these themes put directly to me during meetings with landholders.
The only thing that will stop people such as these is the threat of heavy penalties. Thanks to you and your VFF mates the transgressors thought that the chance of being prosecuted was remote.
With the change in the Victorian government and the Greens interest, this issue is about to gain a lot more prominence. Your, Trewin, Touhey and other rabid VFF members behavior will be at the centre of our demand to prosecute a few and therefore educate thousands.
Your little homily about a legendary ancestor who saved a man from being hung by a mob is not relevant as he/she was protecting a (presumably) an innocent man. You are protecting guilty men.
Please resist your instinct to charge back at me and just answer my questions.
I suggest you Google me and see how deep and longstanding my involvement with Native vegetation issues is and ask John Forrest about me. I had a good relationship with John, a very bright, well educated gentleman who understands the value of native vegetation. Now we have you.
Ps I will email photos of other examples of illegal native vegetation clearance carried out by VFF members to you separately.
Cases of clearing illegally that has been reported but not acted upon can be sent to David Millsom, P.O. Box 1079 Castlemaine Vic. 3450
Email millsom@bigpond. com
Photos would be great.
The photos below are of native grassland roadsides on the Terrick Plains after the initial herbicide spraying in Spring 2014. Click on photo for larger view.
More photos below following cultivation. Photos and comments Paul Haw
This roadside a year ago was a pure stand of native grasses and lignum including Blue Devil and River Butter-cup.
This roadside has never been cleared in my lifetime – originally a good stand of native grasses and Lignum.
Beside the Venables Creek, previously an almost pure stand of Lignum has been ploughed in.
On the left, a few weeks ago was lignum and native grasses – nothing left. It was once one of the best stands in the entire Yando district.
A new fire break has been ploughed – I have no recollection of one ever been there, apparently the people that ploughed it couldn’t read
The other side of the road of the “Significant Roadside Vegetation” sign – makes me cry to see it, knowing that the Shire do not care.