'Right wing extremists': Labor attacks Nats over land clearing comments


By Sean Nicholls

Originally published: Sydney Morning Herald online, August 1, 2014 12:14pm.

NSW Labor environment spokesman Luke Foley has branded senior Nationals, including Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner and federal Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce, "deranged" over their response to the killing of a government employee by a farmer involved in a land-clearing dispute.

Mr Foley said the comments sought to "justify" or "explain away" the alleged shooting murder of environment compliance officer Glen Turner on Tuesday and were of "the same mindset that led to right-wing American extremists committing the Oklahoma bombing".

"For politicians as senior as the Deputy Premier of the state and the federal agriculture minister to endorse rage against land-clearing laws is a betrayal of their offices," Mr Foley said.

"Are some of Australia's conservatives now so angry and deranged that they can explain way or 'understand' armed attacks on government employees?

"Murder should be condemned in all circumstances," Mr Foley said.

"Surely all mainstream politicians in Australia should unequivocally condemn taking up arms against one's government."

NSW Coffs Harbour MP Andrew Fraser was quoted on Friday as describing the alleged murder of Mr Turner by farmer Ian Turnbull at Croppa Creek, north of Moree, as "a tragic event that I think has been brought about by bad legislation".

Mr Stoner, who is leader of the NSW Nationals, was quoted in the same newspaper article as stating that NSW land clearing laws "have been a sore point in farming communities since they were introduced by a Labor-Greens alliance in 2003".

Mr Joyce, who is also Deputy Leader of the Nationals, told AAP the shooting "is not an isolated incident, this is just the worst of a range of incidents".

"People who owned a certain asset, this time trees, had it taken off them by the government without payment and it created animosity towards the government," he was quoted as saying.

The NSW Nationals have vehemently opposed Labor's land clearning laws.

Last year Mr Stoner controversially announced the government would seek to overhaul the laws, which he labelled "fragmented, rigid and overly complex".

NSW Environment Minister Rob Stokes recently announced a review by an independent panel. Its interim report is due in October.

The 1995 bombing of a United States federal government building in Oklahoma City killed 168 people and injured hundreds more.

Timothy McVeigh - a sympathiser with extreme right-wing, anti-government militia groups - and accomplice Terry Nichols were convicted of the crime.

Mr Stoner said Mr Foley's comments were "insensitive, cheap and amount to slanderous lies".

"This is a tragic crime that cannot be justified on any grounds," he said.

A spokesman for Mr Stoner defended Mr Fraser's comments as "contextual [and] made in response to media questions about the Native Vegetation Act. They were in no way an endorsement of the alleged criminal act".

Comment is being sought from Mr Joyce.

Originally published as: 'Right wing extremists': Labor attacks Nats over land clearing comments