“Last week the Auditor-General stated that farmers have escaped land clearing prosecutions because the State Government had ‘problems with meeting the evidence requirements’ under NSW native vegetation laws,” said a spokesperson for the NSW Regional Community Survival Group, Doug Menzies.
A media release from the group issued earlier today began:
“Farming families are demanding an official apology from the NSW Auditor-General who last week implied that farmers should have been prosecuted for clearing 30,000 hectares of land in 2005.
… The Regional Community Survival Group is made up of farmers from western NSW who are fed up with bureaucratic and nonsensical laws that are preventing farmers from controlling infestations of woody weeds that have invaded up to 20 million hectares (an area three times the size of Tasmania) in western NSW.
“The Auditor-General implies that farming families have carried out illegal land clearing yet in his own report he clearly states that no prosecutions in relation to land clearing were successful when contested in court between 1998 and 2005.
“I was led to believe that a foundation stone of the Australian legal system was the benefit of the presumption of innocence until proven guilty by evidence presented in a court of law?
“By implying that farmers have escaped prosecution the Auditor-General has effectively branded farming families as having engaged in illegal land clearing activities – an outrageous suggestion,” said Mr Menzies.
The Regional Community Survival Group is concerned that the comments of the Auditor-General could prejudice land clearing cases currently before the NSW Land and Environment Court.
“We demand an apology from the Auditor-General and seek clarification from the NSW Attorney-General on how the comments of the Auditor-General could potentially prejudice land clearing cases currently before the courts.
“We also have serious concerns on how diligently the Auditor-General investigated the issue of land clearing in NSW.
“The Auditor-General obtained the vast majority of his information from government agencies that are pandering to Sydney-based green groups,” said Mr Menzies.
Read the full report — which does seem to ignore the concept of ‘presumption of innocence’ — published by the NSW Auditor-General and titled ‘Regulating the Clearing of Native Vegetation: Follow-up of 2002 Performance Audit’ by clicking here.