Freeman on the land (sovereign citizens) – the Australian movement

The Freeman on The Land (FOTL) movement has gained traction in the USA, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, and now, Australia. So how do you become a Freeman on the land in Australia (or sovereign citizen)? Well, you don’t need much, and it helps if you park your intelligence by the door on your way to work each morning (if you have a job, that is).

The one sentence summary of the Freeman movement is this: your legal system is invalid and it doesn’t apply to me.

Freeman thug life
Freemen – also known as “sovereign citizens”.

My personal opinion is that the Freeman movement is bat-guano crazy, but at the end of the day it’s an interesting topic for law students and throws up all kinds of fundamental questions:

  • Why should I be subject to the laws of the country I was born in (I didn’t choose to be born here)?
  • I don’t agree with that law, and I don’t think I should have to comply with it – what power do you have to make me follow it?
  • Why should I have to comply with laws that were implemented by a government I didn’t vote for?
  • Why should anyone be able to force me how to behave? Why does (or should) anyone have that power over me?

If your initial reaction is “it just goes without saying” or “it’s just the way it is”, then this post will serve to be both educational and hilarious! I have to admit that I had no idea how to counter the FOTL arguments when I first read about them.

Freeman on the land theory

The key points of the freeman on the land movement are as follows:

  • Australian legislative laws (statutes) are like contracts and they will only apply if you consent to them;
  • Freemen, or sovereign citizens, do not consent to these laws applying to them;
  • Freemen are, however, subject to the “common law” (this is not the same common law as we study in law school);
  • “Common law” comprises a strange mix of (real) common law, maritime law, some really old legislation (both Australian and English), and of course the Magna Carta.
  • Under the “common law” the Freeman can essentially do as he or she pleases (ie they did not commit an offence).

If you hold these beliefs then you’re obviously going to complicate things if you run into trouble with the government or police. For example, many Freemen cases are related to driving offences. Obviously, if you get pulled over by the police, don’t have a licence, and start going on about how the police are a corporation and don’t have any jurisdiction, it’s not going to end well.

The freeman theory may cause problems with the police.
“Ima do what a wanna!”

What’s the relevance of corporations? Well in short, the FOTL movement believes that the government, the police and courts are corporations, and then there is this large gap in logic, and the end result is that only corporations are subject to Australian legislative law.

It appears that much time is spent by the freemen on the land to avoid being considered a corporation, and therefore, being subject to Australian legislative laws.

There is a whole currency conspiracy too but that side of the theory is less relevant for our purposes (which is educational, of course).

For a summary which contains a little bit more detail on how you and I end up as slaves to the government corporations to begin with, head over to the RationalWiki post.

Australian case law on the Freemen

There have only been a few brave souls who have taken the freeman or soveriegn citizen arguments all the way to court.

If you have some spare time, or would rather read some amusing court decisions instead of a 100+ page constitutional decision (where all high court justices agreed, but decided to write separate judgments anyway), then look no further.

Essenberg v The Queen B54/1999 [2000] HCATrans 385 (22 June 2000)

You definitely need to give this Freeman credit for his perseverance – he took his struggle all the way to the High Court! Unfortunately for him, he was being completely schooled by McHugh J within around three minutes:

MR ESSENBERG: Your Honours, I believe we have the British Bill of Rights, as I have indicated in my documents. I am not really competent to argue because – – –

McHUGH J: I understand that and persons who have not had full legal training often think of Magna Carta and the Bill of Rights as fundamental documents which control governments, but they do not. After all, Magna Carta was the result of an agreement between the barons and King John and the barons themselves had their own courts, had their own armies, they, in effect, levied what we would call taxes today and they were concerned to protect themselves against the growth of the central power of the royal government, the central government, and that is how Magna Carta came into existence, but modern Parliament did not arise until late in the 17th century and the early struggle was between the King and the barons. We are dealing now with the question of the legislature. I mean, Parliament established its authority over the monarch after the struggles which led to the execution of Charles I and the flight from the kingdom of James II in 1688. But Parliament – some people would regard it as regrettable – can, in effect, do what it likes.

I wish I was as half as coherent as McHugh… If you only have time to read through one of these links, read this one.

Australian Competition & Consumer Commission v Rana (Corrigendum dated 24 April 2008) [2008] FCA 374

In earlier related proceedings, the ACCC commenced proceedings against the defendant Freeman in respect to a number of businesses he owned and ran, which purported to be able to treat or cure terminal illnesses. The ACCC thought that it was all pretty dodgy and alleged a number of misleading offences, including misleading or deceptive conduct (now section 18 of the Australian Consumer Law). The ACCC won.

In the present proceedings, where the Freeman was being sentenced for failing to provide notices to the ACCC, North J includes in his judgment a few of the Freeman documents, four of which he describes (at [16]) as “so staggering in their absurdity that it is difficult to describe their contents.” Take a look at paragraphs [16], [19] and [21] to form your own view.

And on a further document at [20]: “Again, the document is written in language which is barely comprehensible, but pretending to mimic the worst forms of obtuse legal terminology. The concept of the document is wildly absurd.”

I would highly recommend taking a read at [25] (for part of the transcript of an earlier proceeding). For anyone thinking about using these kinds of arguments in court, take a look at [58] and [59].

R v Stoneman [2013] QCA 209

In this matter, the appellant Freeman had been convicted of driving without a licence and breaching bail conditions in the Queensland Magistrates’ Court. He unsuccessfully appealed to the County Court and this was his appeal to the Supreme Court. Sadly for us, the earlier decisions are unavailable, though Margaret McMurdo P and Fraser JA and Atkinson J do let us in on a few gems.

The appellant Freeman was a little sore that the earlier courts refused to accept his view that he had “an unalienable right (no licence required) of the private individual to use the common ways to travel as per the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”. Hmm.

Without beating around the bush, the court got to the point pretty quickly (citations removed):

“Her Honour [in the earlier proceedings] rejected the applicant’s argument that the Act did not apply to him because he was a freeman on the land and had not consented to membership of the legal fiction known as the State of Queensland, which enacted s 78. Her Honour also dismissed as senseless and unmeritorious his distinction between travelling on the public road in the exercise of a common law right and driving on a public road. Her Honour rightly identified that any common law right of freedom of movement on public roads would not be offended by a requirement for a driver to be licensed when operating a motor vehicle on a public road.

 And a few more if you’re really looking to waste some time:

Hope you had fun

I’m sure some people think some of my beliefs are crazy, such as, I don’t know, the need for marriage equality in Australia. But those people are wrong and the FOTL movement is actually crazy.

I hope these Freeman court cases bring some light relief to your daily reading list. If you come across any other Freeman court decisions, or have any other thoughts, drop a line in the comments below!

If you found this helpful, please share it around!

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