Tassy Enviro Groups Grilled on Tax-Status
21 July 2015 at 2:21 pm
Philanthropist and former Greens leader Bob Brown has been grilled about the work of his Foundation by a Parliamentary inquiry into the tax-free status of environmental groups.
Brown, who is head of the Bob Brown Foundation which campaigns for environmental conservation, has appeared before the Federal Standing Committee on the Environment at public hearings in Hobart along with a number of other Tasmanian advocacy and environmental groups.
Liberal, National and LNP members of the committee are concerned that environmental groups are eligible for tax deductions but are using their donors' funds to bankroll illegal activities and political campaigns.
Brown’s submission to the inquiry described it as a poorly disguised attack on conservationists.
"The inquiry is a Liberal Party vendetta against environment groups," Brown said.
"They want to crush environment groups."
Brown also defended the right of Greenpeace to retain its tax-deductible status in its attempt to protect areas such as the Great barrier Reef.
“The Bob Brown Foundation is committed to protecting the biosphere. It is a modestly successful fundraiser because it works within the expectations of modern environmentally-minded Australia,” he said.
“It seeks and promotes prudent and feasible options to the destruction of the nation’s natural heritage. And it will continue to campaign to protect Australia’s natural commons from irretrievable and needless loss.”
Brown said in his submission to the inquiry that Environmentalists are committed to upholding the laws of nature and society.
“Non-violence and public debate is essential to resolving that disputation and guaranteeing human life on Earth,” he said.
The Director of the Tasmanian Conservation Trust, Peter McGlone, told the inquiry that since the Howard Government his organisation “ had not received one cent of commonwealth Government money”.
“We have resorted to the scary world of social media to raise our public profile and raise money.”
In response to a question at the hearing, McGlone said that in his time at the organisation it had not been engaged in any litigation or illegal activities.
As well he said his organisation in Tasmania did not do the work of other conservation groups in that state.
The House of Representatives Standing Committee on the Environment is holding public hearings into the “administration and transparency of the Register of Environmental Organisations (the Register) and its effectiveness in supporting communities to take practical action to improve the environment”.
The inquiry has received over 600 submissions from community and philanthropic organisations including Philanthropy Australia, the Reichstein Foundation, Australian Communities Foundation/Sydney Community Foundation, and the McKinnon Foundation.
Environmental organisations have described the 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 in April 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.”