The playful observation on life Hanlon's Razor is said to go something like this: "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity".
It immediately came to mind this week when I read numerous blog posts and online comments concerning one Peter James Spencer who is currently sitting atop a pole after delivering his version of the Jerilderee Letter, the Saarahnlee Entreaty (with supplement), to the former Howard Government then firing off another letter of demand to a new Prime Minister while waiting for the world to deliver him from this current episode of foolishness.
Mr. Spencer's relentless self-promotion and hunger strike have managed to ignite the conspiracy theorists and wingnuts into a veritable passion of, well, wigging out and baying for Kevin Rudd's blood.
Peter Spencer is now seen by many as a victim of unfair conditions imposed on rural land, which robs farmers and graziers of their God-given right to clear native vegetation from any part of their property at will.
With encouragement from Mr. Spencer the finger is also being pointed at the United Nations and the Kyoto Protocol as the reason why he is burdened with debt and about to lose the farm.
To anyone who will listen he asserts that he has been denied just compensation for his alleged loss of property rights, as well loss of carbon storage values worth $35 million.
From what Peter Spencer has written in the past (eg., The war on farmers) or presented to various authorities one can deduce that here was a man with little or no personal farming experience who had a rather romantic notion to rekindle his family's connection with the land.
Something many others in his age group have done in the past, for after all most Australian families of that era are only one or two generations away from the farm.
In 1980 he purchased a block of agricultural land in the Cooma-Monaro district and then left it untended for (if my maths is correct) at least a decade. Somewhere along the line he seems to have leased adjoining lots until the property was in the vicinity of 5,000 to 14,000 hectares, a size which tends to vary depending on who Mr. Spencer is addressing at the time.
When eventually returning to live on the property he embarked on a number of rural business ventures which failed and by the start of the 2000s was finding matters rather difficult.
This again is not an unusual occurrence for a somewhat wet behind the ears farmer - a situation made easier for Peter Spencer to bear because he could point to NSW native vegetation law and blame that particular bogey man for his financial troubles.
However Mr. Spencer was made of stern stuff and, instead of looking facts squarely in the face and taking the avenues open to him which would relieve him of his mounting debts, he decided to soldier on with his 'farm'.
Things unravelled and sent Peter Spencer off on a most unusual tangent, when the shire council successfully obtained a judgment against him in the Local Court in February 2007 concerning the matter of his unpaid rates.
This man then decided to initiate legal action in March 2007 against the council and its solicitor with a claim for pecuniary penalty in the form of a liquidated demand for the lordly amount of $165,000.000 against the Shire Council, and $33,000.00 against Mr Angove - based on his being a victim of crime and the crime perhaps being that he had been asked to pay his council rates. Although he does not seem to have actually identified a crime or criminal conviction of any sort to the obvious puzzlement of the presiding judge.
At about the same time he was seeking a sizable penalty against council he began to initiate a slew of litigation in a scatter gun approach. At one stage seeking an interim payment from the defendants of $5 million and informing the court that no judge appointed and dependent upon any of the defendants for his or her livelihood, can bring a fair, just and impartial mind to this dispute, and consequentially I claim the tribunal of fact introduced into Anglo-Celtic law by the Magna Carta from 1295 [sic] until the present day, derived from the passage in the New Testament of the Gospel of Matthew verses 15-20 and I claim by s 116 Constitution and the appearance of either the word The Queen, or Her Majesty forty times in the Australian Constitution that the Coronation Oath 1688 (Imp) is thereby incorporated into the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900, and that the provisions of the Holy Gospels that Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second has agreed to uphold, are by that Act, incorporated into the law of Australia.
Needless to say such sentiments give a fair indication that his legal arguments would result in additional costs being awarded against him over the years.
These are details of some of the court cases which can be accessed online at AustLII Databases:
Spencer v Australian Capital Territory and Ors  NSWSC 303 (4 April 2007) [90%]
(From Supreme Court of New South Wales; 4 April 2007; 71 KB)
Spencer v Cooma Monaro Shire Council Anor  ACTSC 42 (29 June 2007) [90%]
(From Supreme Court of the ACT; 29 June 2007; 11 KB)
Spencer v Commonwealth of Australia  FCA 1415 (31 August 2007) [93%]
(From Federal Court of Australia; 31 August 2007; 17 KB)
Spencer v Commonwealth of Australia  FCA 1787 (1 November 2007) [94%]
(From Federal Court of Australia; 1 November 2007; 18 KB)
Spencer v Commonwealth of Australia  FCA 1256 (26 August 2008) [25%]
(From Federal Court of Australia; 26 August 2008; 214 KB)
Spencer v Commonwealth of Australia (No 2)  FCA 1378 (28 August 2008) [92%]
(From Federal Court of Australia; 28 August 2008; 15 KB)
Spencer v NSW Minister for Climate Change, Environment and Water  NSWSC 1059 (10 October 2008) [88%]
(From Supreme Court of New South Wales; 10 October 2008; 55 KB)
Spencer v Commonwealth of Australia  FCAFC 38 (24 March 2009) [93%]
(From Federal Court of Australia - Full Court; 24 March 2009; 88 KB)
Spencer v Commonwealth of Australia  HCATrans 95 (1 May 2009) [87%]
(From High Court of Australia Transcripts; 1 May 2009; 10 KB)
Spencer v Commonwealth of Australia  HCATrans 126 (5 June 2009) [87%]
(From High Court of Australia Transcripts; 5 June 2009; 44 KB)
Now forgive me if I seem to smile at the absurdities found both within this over-hyped situation and amongst the arguments put forward by Peter Spencer's supporters, for no matter how hard I try I cannot see a legitimate figurehead for rural concerns in the person of this man - all I see is a cranky old mount determined to kick the horsestall down just for the hell of it.
Photograph from the Cooma-Monaro Express
Graham Spencer said his brother owed "more than a million dollars" to a family member after being given a loan to prevent the bank seizing his farm. "Peter doesn't owe money to the bank, but to the family," Graham Spencer said.
"One of the family members lent him the money, and I think the arrangement was he would make the interest payments."
Graham Spencer said the family had made numerous attempts to accommodate Peter Spencer's failure to pay the debt, which had been outstanding for some years.
But in October the family had been forced to seek a writ of possession that could force the sale of the property.
"It's nothing to do with the banks - it's a straight family dispute, and that's where it should stay. Let the family sort this out," Graham Spencer said.
He emphasised that the family wanted only to recover the debt, and said that any extra money raised from the sale of the property would go straight to Peter.