Markets & Justice

Markets & Justice
Freely operating markets yield a just outcome?

White Australia Has A Black History

White Australia Has A Black History

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Galilee Basin Alliance correspondence - #1

The Galilee Basin Alliance doesn't have a web presence - so I have decided to keep the record searchable etc. I will give them some blog space. 
Picture at left is from here

Galilee Basin Alliance

22:48 (12 hours ago)
to bcc: me

Preventing political advocacy by environment groups an 'attack on democracy'
May 18, 2015 -

Political reporter

Any move by the Coalition to narrow the definition of what constitutes an "environmental organisation" – and strip them of their charitable status as a result - would represent an "attack on Australian democracy", legal experts have warned.

Donors to 600 Australian environment groups, including Greenpeace and the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), face losing the right to deduct donations from their tax as a parliamentary committee investigates the register of organisations administered by the federal environment department.
Campaigners believe the inquiry is being driven by the mining industry. It was announced in March after a number of state-based Minerals Councils began publicly agitating for the charity status of environment groups to be revoked following effective campaigns against threats to the Great Barrier Reef, the coal seam gas industry and Queensland's mega expansion of coal mining.
They believe there is a political edge to the inquiry because the government has chosen to focus on the estimated $90 million returned to individuals for donations to environment groups rather than the $1.6 billion in deductions associated with churches and the big welfare charities and aid agencies.

The inquiry, chaired by Liberal backbencher Alex Hawke, will assess whether environment organisations focus on "on-ground" activities or political advocacy and whether they should retain "deductible gift recipient [DGR] status".
Legal academics have raised concerns around freedom of speech and the likelihood of a High Court challenge if the government tried to dictate that groups stick to "on-ground" activities and stay out of the political sphere as the cost of retaining their charitable status.
In a submission to the inquiry, six members of Adelaide University's law school said any legislative change that weakens debate about matters of public importance "has the potential to weaken Australian democracy".
"This participation has already been weakened after federal funding cuts to state and territory conservation councils and Environmental Defenders Offices," they said.
"A definition that excluded groups engaging in political debate from the environmental register – and, thus, from DGR status – would arguably place a burden on the freedom of political communication. It would do so by removing one incentive to make donations and thus depriving those organisations of funds they would otherwise be able to use for their political advocacy activities.
"We believe narrowing the definition of 'environmental organisation' to exclude groups engaging in political debate would not only be bad policy, but would also run the risk of constitutional invalidity.
"If activities are broadly within the public good, we submit the government ought not to discriminate between them on the basis of their perceived benefit, regardless of whether they align with the government's own beliefs of what is in the public good.
Thousands of submissions from the big miners down to local grassroots environment groups and there supporters are expected.
In a speech in February, Michael Roche, chief executive of the Queensland Resources Council, questioned why the "Fight for the Reef" campaign could afford TV advertising during last year's state-of-origin series.
"The top dozen activist groups – 11 of which have tax deductible status – have an estimated 476 staff. Their annual revenues total almost $90 million. They are combining these resources to go up against fossil fuels," he told a dinner hosted by the Australian Pipeline Industry Association.
"As we know in Queensland, the Great Barrier Reef is being used as a stalking horse … Activists are misrepresenting the threats to the reef from shipping and ports – ignoring in the main the scientifically documented pressures from crown of thorns starfish, poor water quality, bleaching and storms – which we can expect are doing more damage right now.
"The whole aim of this campaign and others is to pressure governments into making coal and gas exports from Queensland uneconomic. Remember, for the activists it's all about incremental gain."
Prime Minister Tony Abbott's conservative counterpart in Canada Stephen Harper has launched special tax audits on environmental groups and recently widened that to other aid organisations. He has been accused of "bullying tactics" and trying to silence criticism of the energy sector.
Russia, China and India have passed laws to silence opposition to mining and energy developments.


Federal Government push to strip environmental organisations of their tax deductibility status

8 May 2015
The federal government is secretly planning a big new tax! It’s not of the fossil fuel industry, which over the past six years received an average yearly subsidy of $2.9 billion.[1] It’s not on the huge multinational companies that avoid Australian tax through offshore tax havens. [2] – It’s on you! [3] By taking away your tax deduction on donations to non-profit environmental organisations the federal government is taxing you for trying to make the world a better place. [4]
The House of Representatives Environment Committee has launched an inquiry into the official register of environmental groups that hold tax-deductible status. You can have your say addressing the terms of reference before 21 May 2015.

Have your say by using our easy template to lodge a quick submission.
  1. Download template submission
  2. Insert your details and examples relevant to you/your group. The Committee prefers unique/personalised submissions so make the submission as individual as you can.
  3. Remove highlights/instructions in the template document.
  4. Sign the submission if possible, however, if you do not have the technology to do this it will still be accepted unsigned.
  5. Save as a pdf document (Committee will also accept if submission is in the body of an email).
  6. Upload to the Committee website or email to the address provided in the template.
  7. Once submitted DO NOT distribute to any other person or group until advised by the Committee.
  8. Please tell us by email  if you make a submission.

Lodging a submission online is preferred. Submissions can also be emailed directly to the committee secretariat.
Committee Secretary
House of Representatives Standing Committee on the Environment
PO Box 6021
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600


Government MP steps up campaign against eco-charity tax concessions

      Fri 10 Apr 2015  
More than 100 environment groups face being struck off a register that gives them tax deductibility status enjoyed by charities and research organisations.
A parliamentary inquiry into the Register of Environmental Organisations has begun taking submissions, with some Government MPs agitating for a cull of the 600-strong register.
Queensland LNP senator Matthew Canavan said a preliminary audit showed eco-charities were getting tax deductibility status to engage in political rather than environmental activity.
"We've got 100 to 150 groups that seem to have their purpose at stopping industrial development, not just mining, some of those developments include tourism developments or agricultural developments but engaging in what I would view as a political debate, not the environmental debate," Senator Canavan said.
He said there had been a spike in groups campaigning against coal mining, and locals in his state were concerned jobs were being lost.
"There are a large minority who are clearly engaged primarily in trying to stop fossil fuel development in Australia and I don't think it's right that Australian taxpayers, including people who work in the mining industry, are asked to fund those activities," he said.
I wish we hadn't taken this money, and that's simply because we have in Canberra enough people that are in control of Government that are fiercely anti-environment, and very ideologically so.
Cam Walker, Friends of the Earth
Many Government MPs would like the list to include only groups that do practical environment work.
Committee chair Alex Hawke believes a tightening is likely.
"I think there will be some evidence to say, and we'll see what it does say, that we should tighten the definition of a charity for environmental groups," Mr Hawke said.
Cam Walker from Friends of the Earth believes that protesting and lobbying is important environmental work.
"I think the Australian people are very sharp, they realise that protecting the environment isn't just a case of planting some trees," Mr Walker said.
"They realise that in the current context it's political activity that brings about change."

Government accused of being driven by ideology

Friends of the Earth has already come under Government scrutiny.
In the run-up to the last election it received a $130,000 donation which was spent on market research and used in conjunction with GetUp! for political campaigning.
It is currently being audited by the Australian Tax Office, but has been cleared in a separate Environment Department investigation. 
"I wish we hadn't taken this money, and that's simply because we have in Canberra enough people that are in control of Government that are fiercely anti-environment, and very ideologically so," Mr Walker said.
The inquiry will also scrutinise auspicing arrangements, where groups with tax deductibility status collect for those that do not have it.
"Often you look at some of these groups which have been around for a long time, but they're linked to affiliates that I know in northern Tasmania have been involved in illegal activities, illegal protest activities, trying to run down legitimate businesses in northern Tasmania" said Liberal MP Andrew Nikolic, who has led the push for the inquiry.
Mr Walker from Friends of the Earth said audits had shown auspicing was legal under the act.

Inquiry 'more about politics than facts'

Environment NGOs said funding had already been cut for environmental campaigns and lawyers, and the latest move was part of a campaign against the sector.
"The current House of Representatives inquiry is an attempt to silence the environment movement. We have no doubt that this is more about politics than about facts," Mr Walker said.
Other groups like the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), which campaigns on behalf of big business to remove environmental protections, also have tax deductibility status.
NGO academic and vice-president of Environment Victoria, Joan Staples, said that was hypocritical.
"The department that scrutinises them, which is not the Environment Department but the Industry Department, should be scrutinising them much more closely and look at whether they really are producing what that tax deductibility status requires of them," she said.
The IPA declined to be interviewed but said not all money raised was tax deductible.