Over the past decade we have seen many images of asylum seekers in detention centres campaigning via hunger strike to get into Australia.
But one farmer in NSW is now on the 45th day of his own hunger strike - in a self-imposed prison 10 metres above the ground because he feels farmers have been sold up the river by environmental legislation.
As a part of Australia's commitment to protect native vegetation and to reduce carbon emissions under the Kyoto protocol, Peter Spencer and thousands of farmers like him, have been subjected to a government imposed ban on land clearing.
The saved trees are natural carbon sinks worth an estimated $10.8 billion to the government in reduced carbon emissions, should Kevin Rudd's emissions trading scheme go ahead. But the farmers, who can no longer develop this land have received no compensation.
"They're welcome to take my land but the constitution says they have to pay," Peter said.
"I just keep going, keep going, I just keep going. They've got the wrong person if they think I'll walk away."
Peter's hunger strike has galvanised the farming community.
On Monday hundreds of supporters gathered at parliament house and at Peter's property in the Southern Highlands to force the government to meet Peter's demands that farmers be justly compensated for what they describe as the insidious, deceitful theft of their land.
Alistair McRobert, a farming friend and supporter of Peter Spencer, says Kevin Rudd's office is reluctant to respond to Peter's protest.
"The only response from the PM's office is, he has said that the government does not take any notice of people taking massive protests, as in hunger strikes or threatening the government. They say, 'we make laws, rules and policy in the national interest, and Peter Spencer needs to come down from there and get medical attention and go to the courts to get remedy'," McRobert said.
Should the government make policy on the basis of one man's stand?
Is the government right to see Peter's stance in this light? Should the government be more sensitive to farmers demanding compensation?Says Peter: "Mr Rudd, how dare you tell me that you'll just carry on breaching the constitution when I've followed every path known, I wrote to you two years ago and said, 'don't throw that excuse up to me in 2 years time' - I knew he would pass the buck. How dare you work outside the constitution, wake up to yourself. It's just not on. I'm not here to try and threaten you, I'm trying to get this country back on track."
Peter King is Peter Spencer's barrister. Before any hunger strike, the two Peters spent years fighting for compensation in the courts - to no avail.
"It's my opinion, and I've offered that in support of Peter Spencer's case, that it is unconstitutional for this reason. That there has been an acquisition of his land and that's now been acknowledged by the lower courts, that there's been a benefit to the Commonwealth, both in terms of an interest in his land and in terms of financial outcomes. And it hasn't been paid for. Now in our country, under our constitution, the notion that we have, that is fundamental to our democracy, is that nobody loses his or her or its land unless it's been paid for," Peter King said.
"What the Commonwealth did, before I came into the case, was to move to have it dismissed as being, as there being no case. I came into the case and we repeated the matter and the judge held that there was a case but then the Commonwealth moved in March of 2008, interestingly enough, shortly after the Kyoto Protocol commenced in operation in Australia, to have the whole case dismissed under a discretionary power that judges have in the Federal Court. And so that was to prevent the case from going to a hearing," Peter Spencer said.
Ignoring a man on a hunger strike is politically very dangerous for Rudd, especially when, at the same time he is seen writing kids books, commentating the cricket and lunching with the cricketers. But meeting the farmers and accepting their demands carry their own set of dangers.
"So what I'm saying is, Australia's facing penalties in excess of $100 billion to the UNFCCC," Alistair McRobert said.
The UNFCCC is the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. If Kevin Rudd were to allow Peter and other farmers to re-commence land clearing now, they would likely not meet their carbon reduction targets and therefore face massive fines. As the friend of the chair in Copenhagen, Kevin Rudd would also have a little egg on his international face.
Best selling author, anthropologist and environmental activist Diane Bell is sympathetic to the farmers' quest for compensation for their lost land - but strongly disagrees with any push to allow further clearing.
"I think with carbon emissions there's going to be benefits and burdens and how we distribute those is the role of government to come up with policies that are transparent and open and equitable and of course there are going to be some winners and losers.""At some point in Australia, we have to say, our practices have been unsustainable. The land is salting up, we have tried to force agricultural practices in some areas which are just unsustainable. And that's going to be a very brave government that bites the bullet and makes those decisions," Diane adds.
The Labor Government aren't the only ones feeling heat over the hunger strike.
To some farmers, Bill Heffernan represents the former Howard government and it's role in implementing the legislation which they say has locked them from their land.
The farmers are furious because the energy sector has been massively compensated during a time that their carbon emissions have risen, and at the same time agricultural emissions have reduced, but farmers say they haven't received a cent and they believe this is the thin edge of the wedge.
Peter has lost 40 kilograms and the indignities of a hunger strike are many. He must urinate out a tube and deal with severe constipation.
"It's a hard job to keep clean, and I stink, I want a good wash, I want a good s**t and I want a good feed," Peter said.
Should the Prime Minister meet with Peter Spencer?Yes: 1902 558 770
No: 1902 558 771
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