Today the report into the tax deductible status of environment groups was released, and has been thoroughly rejected as anti democratic by the environment movement. Whilst there are significant issues raised with a range of recommendations the government is clearly intending to stifle dissent with this:
The Committee recommends that administrative sanctions be introduced for environmental deductible gift recipients that encourage, support, promote, or endorse illegal or unlawful activity undertaken by employees, members, or volunteers of the organisation or by others without formal connections to the organisation.
We were one of the organisations to be specifically cited and one of the recommendations is clearly directed at limited our training work.
Payment of penalties or court-ordered fines in relation to the above should also be captured. Similarly, supporting (financially or otherwise), training in, or promoting the above should be captured.
“At a time when mining company lobbyists are benefiting from millions of dollars in tax payer subsidies to destroy the environment and climate, it seems only fair that tax payers should receive a deduction, if they want to make a modest donation to work that trains people to protect the natural environment,” said Ms Paris.
“93% of the Barrier Reef has been bleached and weeping scientists are telling us we could lose up to half of it very soon. People across the globe take this seriously, and so do we. That is why we are supporting and training people from around the country to protect our natural environment and try and stop runaway climate change.”
“This is an extraordinary attack on fundamental principles of law. Organisations can not be responsible for the actions of loosely connected individuals, who are acting on principle. Essentially all major environmental organisations could be subject to sanctions under the governments recommendations. Does this mean that huge national environmental organisations that circulate images of farmers locking their gates could be sanctioned?”
“Civil disobedience plays an absolute critical role in defence of our environment, the government should listen to its own member – La Trobe MP, Jason Wood.”
The report has been considered so extreme and regressive that not only the ALP, but a member of the Coalition specifically detailed concerns. Member for La Trobe, Jason Wood states, “Also it should be noted that it was due to environmental activists, through their efforts and through the use of a blockade, that major environmental disasters have been prevented. An example would be the Franklin River in Tasmania, where many activist groups openly supported campaigns to stop the damming of the river. These protests, which were actively supported by environmental groups, would be prohibited under this recommendation and history would now show that, if it was not for these protests and national awareness, the World Heritage Franklin River would have been dammed.”
The ALP submitted a dissenting report, noting, “The overwhelming weight of evidence presented to the committee points to the vital importance of maintaining the tax deductibility of donations to environmental organisations, without imposing further conditions or constraints on the operation of those organisations.”
They also expressed concerns with Recommendation 6, saying “The Labor members of the committee have several concerns relating to this recommendation, regarding the practicality and monitoring of the potential penalties imposed and relevant privacy matters pertaining to disclosure”
More broadly the report reflects the experiences of the sector, and government witnesses – there was no serious evidence gathered by this expensive witch hunt that indicates the environment movement has mismanaged their charitable status , or that organisations should be de-listed.
Friends of the Earth Australia, who we are affiliated with, signed onto a joint group statement from all the major environment groups and circulated this statement.
“We support Friends of the Earth and the broader environment movement in their call for the PM to rule out taking any action in relation to this report. It should be thrown out in the trash, along with the rest of the extreme Abbott agenda if Turnbull wants the electorate to take his government seriously heading into an election.” concluded Ms Paris.