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PHOTO: The Farmers Daughter – from a series specially commissioned by Alan Jones and Heather Brown and photographed by Andrew Rankin PHOTO: The Farmers Daughter – from a series specially commissioned by Alan Jones and Heather Brown and photographed by Andrew Rankin

Dear Mr Abbott,

As the entire nation grieves and the dust begins to settle over the tragic events of Martin Place, we believe we need to talk about the issue of freedom of speech.

You promised us that Australians would get their freedom of speech back if they elected you and your Liberal Government.

Well, we believed you.

Once you went into power, you suddenly backed down from the repeal of Section 18 C. Your excuse at the time was that you believed it would offend certain sectors of the community - and that we were all part of what you called “Team Australia.”

We knew exactly which sections of the community you were referring to, and we were left feeling uncomfortable about that, especially given the clear and present danger that we were facing with the rise of fanatical terrorism.

Like good and decent citizens, however, we bit our lips, said nothing and reminded ourselves that we were The Land of the Fair Go.

We were not so sure about that when we all woke up this morning.

Like most Australians, we have always honoured two primary rights in this nation: our right to our democracy – and our right to our freedom of speech.

What concerns us most is how our right to freedom of speech has been deliberately and stealthily removed from the people of rural Australia, in particular.

Not only are they already removed from the public gaze by the two fences of distance and bush, they have also been subjected to some of the most draconian and brutal harassment and bullying that has ever been witnessed in our nation.

And your government has completely turned a blind eye to it.

While we were aware of the corporate terrorism of the “Mongrels in Suits” in mining – where carloads of lawyers would suddenly turn up into a farmers driveway, invite themselves in for a cup of tea and immediately begin to harass an elderly couple, telling them how they had already bought up all their neighbours and, if they knew what was good for them, they would sell to them now at their price - and sign secrecy agreements.

If it didn’t happen as brutally and quickly as this, then it would certainly happen as soon as negotiations commenced with the farmer.

It is standard practice that farmers were forced to sign secrecy agreements which effectively muzzle them from speaking their neighbours, their community and the local media.

In some cases, elderly couples were even threatened and prevented from speaking to their own immediate blood families.

Furthermore, throughout the negotiations the threat of being taken to court – and at their own massive expense – was always made clear to farmers by the mining companies.

This meant that every negotiation became Advantage Mining Company, because the rest of the community had no idea what a fair price was. It was a corrupt and clever game, where bullying big city lawyers would effectively harass, terrify and intimidate farmers into signing they agreements they wanted.

We have sat in country halls and listened to the sheer helplessness of an entire community of deeply conservative farmers who believed they had no other choice than to do whatever the mining companies and the politicians wanted.

My wife once stood up and spoke in sheer outrage and reminded farmers that freedom was the light in their hearts, that freedom was the gift of their birthright in this nation. She did not sleep a wink that night when we came home because she could not believe that what she had seen and heard was actually happening in our own country.

We were not prepared for what the banks were ALSO doing to the Australian people - or the magnitude of the forced silencing of farmers right across Australia. The truth is, the Banks have been given the right to do whatever they like.

When we went to Winton, we watched in horror as farmer after farmer physically shook, turned away and began to cry when we asked them to name the bank that was doing this to them. We were completely shocked by the depth of their fear: this was not the Australia we grew up in.

Since my letter to you about the treatment of Mr Charlie Phillott by the banks, I have since received hundreds of letters written by farmers who have told me they are too afraid to speak out because the banks will go after them, punish them and make life worse for them.

Some of them have actually asked me to use their names because they felt if they were sent to jail they would at least have a roof over their head, three meals a day and the fear and harassment would finally come to an end.

This is not my Australia, Prime Minister – and I sincerely trust this is not your Australia, either.

Either way, you can no longer afford to ignore what is happening within our own nation, and what is being done to our own people.

We need the right to Freedom of Speech to be given back to our Australian people - and we need it to be given back to us today.

We also need a very big spotlight on the brutal and bullying behaviour of banks and the way they have treated the farmers when foreclosing on their properties.

This is completely unAustralian and I believe there needs to be an urgent national debate regarding the banks and their treatment of our citizens.

We can no longer allow the banks to hide behind the secrecy clauses that has allowed this behaviour to continue against our own people.

Not if we still want to call ourselves a democracy, anyway.

Kind regards
Dr David Pascoe

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