Farmer's compo plea rejected

Gareth Parker
Manjimup farmer Peter Swift, refused an ex-gratia payment. Picture:

Manjimup farmer Peter Swift has been refused an ex gratia payment by Attorney-General Michael Mischin.

Mr Swift spent years fighting charges that he had illegally cleared 14 hectares of land at his property, 60km east of Manjimup.

He was cleared by a magistrate last year of the charges, which Federal Liberal MP Don Randall has said were pursued by the Department of Environment Regulation in a vexatious way.

Mr Swift had been seeking more than $2.7 million compensation from the Government for legal costs, lost wages and other damages.

He was awarded the maximum $15,000 of costs by the court but said this sum did not come close to covering his losses over the affair.

"I accept that Mr Swift has had a difficult and stressful experience through his defence of the clearing charge," Mr Mischin wrote in rejecting the ex gratia application.

"The Government is not persuaded, however, that there is any particular and unusual features of this case which distinguish it from others in a manner sufficient to consider it an exceptional case."

Mr Swift said he was disgusted with his treatment by the Government, including an offer made during the prosecution that he plead guilty and accept a lesser sentence.

"It's very disheartening because I don't know where I fit into Australia," he said. "I've worked all my life. I've never asked the world to owe me anything. But it's unjust what's happened to me.

"I'm not going to give up. I'm going to keep fighting."

Mr Randall said Mr Swift had been hung out to dry.

"The only crime Peter Swift is guilty of is buying a lifestyle block and maintaining it," he said.