Farmer takes rates war to AFP

THE retired dairy farmer brandishing the constitution as a weapon against paying council rates has taken his fight to the federal police.

Dorrigo’s Terry Martin has become something of a battler’s hero since news first broke about his stance against Bellingen Shire Council and the $20,000 in rates he refuses to pay.

Mr Martin called on the Federal Police after discovering the council was reportedly investigating his financial affairs.

Police officials said the AFP had no authority to investigate processes of government or the court system.

The man whose fight resembles that of screen hero Daryl Kerrigan in the film ‘The Castle’, was the guest speaker at Tuesday’s public meeting of the CooEEE Property Rights Association in Coffs Harbour.

Mr Martin has not paid rates since 1995 and as one of the 12 per cent of Bellingen residents in arrears, he can expect a summons soon following a recent blitz.

“We want to take it to the High Court but the case is in limbo,” Mr Martin said.

High Court appeals are notoriously costly but Terry Martin says such a High Court appeal should be supported by the Governor-General, according to the Constitution.

A spokeswoman for Bellingen council said the next rates instalment was due on May 31, reminder letters would go out on June 14 to anyone who had not paid by June 4 and non-payers would be pursued through a debt recovery agency and the court system.

Mr Martin’s own legal case is currently stuck between the Supreme Court and the District Court.

He said the Supreme Court in Sydney had accepted his appeal against the decision by Mr Dakin in Bellingen Magistrates Court last year that rates were a fee for service; then said they were sending his appeal back to the District Court in Bellingen, but the Supreme Court had since refused to release his documents to the district court until he hired a solicitor.

The gravely voiced pensioner with the unruly head of iron-grey hair has already succeeded in putting a burr under the saddle of a number of State government bodies from Pastures Protection Boards to the RTA.

But if his improbable tilt at the windmill of Bellingen council succeeds, it will upset the machinery of local government state-wide.

Mr Martin said he first became disillusioned with government bureaucracy when the Dairy Corporation would not register his farm as a dairy to sell manufacturing milk after he sold his milk quota, ‘even though every solicitor tells me I have a sovereign right to do it’.

That stoush led him to a study of the Constitution and he has been butting heads with State bureaucracies ever since.

Mr Martin says the Constitution makes it clear that the States have no right to impose taxation, so they cannot pass on that right to councils and rates, like grants to councils, are a voluntary contribution.

The council argues that rates are a fee for service, not a tax.


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