Sunday, September 13, 2015

Ignorance on Trial at a Kangaroo Court

On Monday, August 31 I found myself in the most unlikely spot on earth: the Western Australia courthouse at Kalgoorlie.  I was invited to observe the commencement of proceedings against Michael David Tucker - an aboriginal man who was accused of harvesting sandalwood for sale without the proper permits.  Welcomed into the courthouse on the main thoroughfare in this gold rush mining town by contracted security guards native to New Zealand, I joined a small group of people waiting to be admitted into the courtroom.  Among the observers were members of Michael's family, several aboriginal legal advocates, and a few vocal advocates for the entire eradication of national and federal structures and their judicial agencies.  As the published time for the commencement of proceedings past, a small security detail assembled in front of the courtroom door barring all from entering save the ebb and flow of police and security personnel.  The assembly was given no information as to the nature of the closure of the proceedings though word spread that the Defendant was facing the judge without counsel infuriating several of the waiting advocates.  After several days of contentious proceedings, a jury found Mr. Tucker guilty.

Now the facts appear to suggest that Mr. Tucker did, in fact, harvest sandalwood with the intent to sell the same.  And the control of harvesting sandalwood in Western Australia is subject to the Sandalwood Act of 1929.  In this Act, the penalty for "pulling or removing" sandalwood from Crown land or "alienated land" is a fine of $200.  The Western Australia Department of Parks and Wildlife have a 7 page licensing information sheet that sets forth the guidelines for obtaining a permit for harvesting sandalwood and Mr. Tucker apparently failed to seek or obtain such a permit.  So, under the prima facie argument, there appears to be some rationale for what transpired.  But that's before you review the facts that are relevant in this case.

Western Australia was formally claimed by the Crown in 1829 as an expansion of the Swan River Colony overlooking the contract between King Gustav III of Sweden and William Bolts for the establishment of a Swedish colony in 1786.  While the whole of Australia was claimed by the Crown on 21 January 1827, regional annexations were precisely defined over the next several years with Western Australia being formally subject to Crown land grants two years later.  And Western Australia, the unique agricultural and pastoral home of the Noongar community, was known to be an ideal agricultural anomaly in the early days of the Commonwealth.  In other words, the Crown, at the time of colonization, knew that Western Australia was inhabited by foresters and pastoral lands people.  As such, the Sandalwood Act of 1929 is, in fact, incompatible with Crown law.

Allow me to explain.  Under the never-overturned or amended by reference Charter of the Forest, the baron's companion law to the Magna Carta (declared invalid by King John and Pope Innocent III), any forests claimed by the King must be disafforested to the "good and worthy men" to whom the forests belonged (Section 1).  Further, under Section 14, the Crown's own charter prohibits the extraction of fees from those who collect wood from the forest particularly in the event that in so doing, someone is gainfully earning a livelihood.  In other words, if British subject by force Mr. Tucker were fully informed of the laws governing British subjects (clearly a reasonable expectation since the 1967 Constitution Alteration (Aboriginals) 1967 law), he could have reasonably pointed out to the Court that he was claiming his lawful rights under the Charter of the Forest and had an entirely different trial.

So why is that, when I queried the assembled masses in Kalgoorlie, when I spoke to the Aboriginal Legal Services, and when I encountered the several aboriginal people fined and imprisoned for failure to comport to laws themselves incompatible with Crown law, no one seemed to know about the Charter of the Forest - one of England's oldest laws?  Why did I encounter dozens of people who have done jail time for hunting on Crown land despite the exceptionally clear prohibition of such restrictions set forth in Section 10 of the Charter?  Mr. Tucker, it seemed, was the unwitting prey caught between the hounds of repressive faux justice in the goldfields of Western Australia on one hand and Constitutional activists seeking to sever ties with the Crown on the other.  All the while, he was kept in the dark about his actual rights to live as he wished afforded to him by an 800 year old law.

Is it possible that this is yet another example of how our current system of tyrannical abuse of willful ignorance is an inextricable component to how the corruption of capitalism (not free market capitalism in its ideal) has brought ruin to our moral fiber?  When Karl Marx critiqued the Swan River Colony of Western Australia as the evidence of capitalism's failure in Das Kapital, did anyone realize that even his socialism failed to address the real cancer of colonial callousness? 

Mr. Tucker is guilty of one thing.  He's guilty of being as ignorant of the law as were his judge, jury, and advocates.  His penalty, which will include a criminal rap sheet for crimes defined by a law that itself fails to comport with the law, will add further despondency to a people tired of being treated as criminals in their own land.  And, in the end, neither he nor the citizens of Australia will have received justice.  In the final analysis, these abuses of power do not serve any of their stated purposes.  They do not build a free and fair society.  They do not support a robust capitalist system.  They merely show that reckless inhumanity flourishes only when willful ignorance is the currency of the day.  And this condition can be changed if the citizens of Australia and the rest of the world chose to change them.  Until then, thousands of Mr. Tuckers will be the casualties of our collective negligence.  And this, my dear friends, is not a free market.  It's organized crime operated by those incumbencies who enforce their corrupt views of their selective rules. 



  1. Dave Nyoongar People of South West Australia have been denied Land Rights, Native Title, access to country and waters and been found guilty of big and little things, like catching a feed of Marron (fresh water crayfish) for their family. Yours is the first bit of advise we have read. How to people get in touch with you. Many are now on Face book are you?

  2. Well this is a coincidence. Last night while I was reading your article, my sons, nephew and grandson were out in the Forrest catching Marron. They were caught by Fisheries and the Marron were taken from them.

  3. They claimed the right to catch a feed as Indigenous people of this Country. The Ranger took statements from them but didn't charge or fine them. He said he would take the statements back to their boss to decide.

  4. Just as Twitter, Facebook Friends and the constant drone of targeted ads tempt,distract and derail our intentionality, so our momentary existence is threatened in the hijacking. The complexity we build into our lives that is "managed" by computing tools, while expanding our reach and "efficiency", it also creates so very many places for ignorance to gain a tether in us and society. We must stay awake and think, As a race (individually!) we need to keep searching for ways of maintaining our very human sense of place, person, relation and soul. Kangaroo court, indeed. David: keep on doing so many things with your gifts: large and small with the greatest and clearest expressions of love. Thank you.


Thank you for your comment. I look forward to considering this in the expanding dialogue. Dave