Environmental Organisations Under ‘Attack’
Thursday, 2nd April 2015 at 11:29 am
Environmental organisations have described a national inquiry into their ability to receive tax deductible donations as an attack on their efforts to protect the environment.
The House of Representatives Standing Committee on the Environment, chaired by Liberal MP Alex Hawke, announced that it would be scrutinising tax-deductible donations made to environmental groups and their Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) status.
Hawke said the inquiry would officially look into the administration, transparency and effectiveness of the Register of Environmental Organisations in supporting practical action to improve the environment.
“Over 600 environmental groups are currently Deductible Gift Recipients. This allows them to access tax-deductible donations to fund important, practical work to improve the natural environment,” Hawke said.
“We need to ensure that tax deductible donations, which are a generous concession from the taxpayer, are used for the purpose intended and expected by the community.”
The Committee agreed to investigate environmental organisations and the Register following a request from Environment Minister Greg Hunt.
The inquiry will specifically look at activities undertaken by organisations currently listed on the Register and the extent to which these activities involve on-ground environmental works as well as the definition of 'environmental organisation' under the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997.
But CEO of the Australian Conservation Foundation, Kelly O’Shanassy, told Pro Bono Australia News that the inquiry “does look a lot like an attempt to stymie the work of people committed to protecting Australia’s environment for current and future generations”.
“While some politicians would be more comfortable if advocacy groups didn’t exist, democracies don’t work like that. Politicians should not be able to draw the line where it suits them just because they don’t like what we say from time to time.
“We welcome the opportunity to front this inquiry and explain to the committee the good work we do… but we would prefer to be getting on and doing the work.
“Nature in Australia is under attack on so many fronts. If I was being generous I could say this inquiry is a distraction from our core work. A blunter assessment might conclude that this inquiry is part of a concerted campaign to strip away nature protection on behalf of big polluters and resource extraction companies.
“This latest attack won’t stop us from continuing to bring together people who love nature and strive to protect it.”
The Standing Committee will accept submissions addressing one or more of its Terms of Reference until Thursday, 21 May 2015.
Further details about how to make a submission can found here.