Call on New PM to Reverse Attacks on Enviro Groups
22 September 2015 at 11:06 am
Conservation groups have protested in Melbourne calling on the new Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, to steer a new course of working with Australia’s Not for Profit and charity sector and withdraw its inquiry into the Deductible Gift Recipient status of conservation groups.
As many as 400 protesters gathered on Monday outside Parliament House ahead of a Parliamentary hearing in Melbourne into the Register of Environmental Organisations.
The Australian Conservation Foundation and Environment Victoria said in a joint statement that some of Australia’s most important environmental outcomes – protecting places like the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu and the Kimberley – have only been achieved when Australia’s conservation organisations have informed the community and advocated for the protection of these great national assets.
“From John Howard’s expansion of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, to Bob Hawke’s rejection of mining in Antarctica, to Malcolm Fraser’s ending of sand mining on Fraser Island, to Julia Gillard’s Murray-Darling Basin Plan, governments from both sides of politics have made good environmental decisions that only happened as a result of advocacy campaigns,” ACF CEO, Kelly O’Shanassy, said.
Environment Victoria CEO, Mark Wakeham, said recently there has been a serious attempt to “muzzle” conservation groups.
“First initiated by the mining lobby and extreme right-wing think tanks, there is now a political push to strip the tax deductible status of Australian conservation groups if they engage in public debate to encourage better government policies,” Wakeham said.
“Instead of developing a positive agenda for environment and climate protection the Abbott Government has chosen to attack the messenger and try and silence environment groups.
“Prime Minister Turnbull now has the opportunity to reset the Coalition’s environment policies and relationships with the sector by dropping the deeply unpopular attacks on environment and community groups and working collaboratively with the broad community to shape a healthier environment and economy.”
The House of Representatives Standing Committee on the Environment is holding public hearings into the “administration and transparency of the Register of Environmental Organisations 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 DGR status.
“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.”