Environmental activist organisations that break the law or conduct party political campaigns should have tax-deductibility status for donations removed, Queensland Senator Matt Canavan said today.
In a just-published submission to a parliamentary inquiry, Senator Canavan called for a Federal Government audit of environmental activists.
“Environmental organisations should not receive unconstrained tax deductions to help them break the law or engage in highly politicised campaigning,” he said. “Most environmental organisations focus on practical environmental work but a sizeable minority have an endemic culture of politicisation, protests, and, for some, flagrant lawbreaking to further political aims.”
Senator Canavan said environmental organisations receive substantial benefits from tax deductible gift status
A sample of just over 100 of these organisations collectively received around $106 million in donations in 2014.
In the submission, he says that, of approximately 600 organisations listed on the Register of Environmental Organisations (and therefore eligible for tax-deductible donations), around 100 did not look to have practical actions to support the natural environment as their primary or sole focus.
“Collectively, based on publically available data, in 2014, a sample of 108 organisations received at least $106 million in tax deductible donations, as well as at least $12 million in direct grants from federal, state and local governments. In total, the organisations had revenues of around $155 million and around 14,000 staff and volunteers.”
He describes arguments that more stringent requirements on registered organisations would amount to an attack on democracy as “wrong-headed”: “Democratic rights do not extend to requiring taxpayers to unwittingly fund political debate and activity. Free speech does not necessitate free funding.
“All organisations and individuals have the right to freely express their views but there is no right to receive a tax deduction to help spread those views.”
He says around 12 per cent of organisations were involved in unlawful activities of some form.
“Some organisations boast of their breaking of the law and ask for tax deductible donations to pay the fines and penalties that are imposed for unlawful acts.
“The government should commission an audit of organisations that appear to engage in such activities because organisations should not receive unconstrained tax deductions to help them break the law or engage in highly politicised campaigning.”