Environmental charities under the spotlight for advocacy
10 December 2019 at 8:35 am
Greenpeace says political advocacy is a vital part of a charity’s purpose
Political advocacy is an essential task for charities and is something that must be protected, Greenpeace says, in the wake of comments made by a federal senator calling for the charity to be stripped of its DGR status.
The Courier Mail reported on Sunday that Senator James Mcgrath had asked the Assistant Minister for Charities Zed Seselja to review why Greenpeace held DGR status, which allows donations to be tax-deductible.
Pro Bono News contacted Senator McGrath’s office for comment but did not receive a response before deadline.
Jamie Hanson, head of campaigns at Greenpeace Australia Pacific, told Pro Bono News that Greenpeace supporters expected the organisation to contribute to Australian political debate, and it was proud to do so.
He pointed to the high court ruling late last year that struck down a bill that tried to limit the amount third-party groups, including charities, could spend on election campaigns.
“The High Court of Australia has recognised that political advocacy – like giving nature a voice – is an essential task of charitable organisations and an essential component of Australian democracy,” Hanson said.
“This is the latest in a series of attempts by the Coalition to silence social justice and environmental advocates.”
The shadow assistant minister for charities, Andrew Leigh, also hit back at McGrath’s alleged comments, and said it yet again proved the Morrison government wanted to shut down any criticism of its environment policies.
“Australians trust charities, but the Morrison government wants to silence dissenting voices,” Leigh said.
“They’re happy for charities to plant trees, but not to discuss deforestation. They’re happy for charities to promote recycling, but not to ask why Australia’s carbon emissions keep rising.”
Pro Bono News asked Seslja if he had been approached by McGrath to investigate Greenpeace.
Seselja told Pro Bono News the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission is allowed to investigate charities where legitimate concerns are raised.
“I would expect all organisations who are subsidised by the taxpayer to act in line with their obligations and in line with the expectations of the public,” Seselja said.
The Courier Mail also reported that Seselja “hinted that the charity sector was facing a significant overhaul next year”.
He said this was in regards to the government’s response to the ACNC Review, which was currently under consideration.
“The ACNC Review looks into the legislative regime that governs the charities sector for the first time since its introduction,” he said.