Malcolm Turnbull is continuing Tony Abbott’s ideological attack on environmental advocacy groups.
Registered Environmental Organisations contribute to the preservation of our natural environment and to the health of our democracy.
However, Coalition members of the House of Representatives Environment Committee have recommended that a minimum of 25 per cent of the work done by environmental organisations must be for ‘environmental remediation work’ - despite recognising that this is an uncertain term, and this recommendation being wholly unsupported by the evidence presented to the committee.
When it comes to seeking to silence or crush environmental and community organisations, the Abbott-Turnbull Government has form. On taking office this government imposed gags on community legal centres, they defunded all environment defender offices in the country – something that not even John Howard contemplated, and they tried but failed to legislate to stop legal actions by environment groups to uphold Australian law.
Other recommendations would also impose potentially unworkable administrative burdens on environmental organisations and only environmental organisations.
They have been singled out, it seems, for purely political reasons: to appease the climate deniers in the Coalition party room.
Presently, registered environmental organisations are entitled to the benefit of tax deductibility based on the purpose for which they’ve been established, not a detailed analysis of the work they do. This is the right approach: it shouldn’t be for government to tell not-for-profits how to do their work. It’s anti-democratic.
Moving away from a purpose test creates red tape for both environmental organisations and government and would be an administrative nightmare. It would be a brake on innovation through constraining the manner in which organisations can seek to achieve their objectives.
In its last enquiry the House Environmental Committee looked to reduce so called ‘green tape’. Now its government members are seeking to do the opposite: to impose an administrative burden for no reason save that they fear dissenting voices when it comes to preserving our precious natural environment.
Labor members have dissented from the majority recommendations, and stand with the environmental organisations, their donors and supporters - and for a robust democracy.