Senator Matt Canavan has called for Federal Government action against environmental organisations that break the law or run “political” campaigns.
Environmental organisations should be audited and stripped of tax-deductibility status for public donations if they had broken the rules, he said.
Senator Canavan appeared this morning before a hearing in Brisbane of the House of Representatives inquiry into the register of environmental organisations. He had previously made a written submission to the inquiry.
“This is something I feel very strongly about,” he said outside the hearing. “Sabotaging the economy, destroying jobs and putting Queensland families out of work should not be tax-deductible.
“It is time for more stringent requirements on registered environmental organisations. This does not amount to an ‘attack on democracy’: democratic rights don’t extend to requiring taxpayers to unwittingly fund political debate and activity. Free speech does not necessitate free funding.”
He called for more stringent auditing of registered organisations by the Department of Environment and said the case for transferring this role to the Australian Charites and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) should be examined.
Guidelines should be strengthened to better define what activities would rule out environmental activists holding tax-deductibility status for public donations.
“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.
“During recent State elections, some organisations called for tax-deductible donations to fund ‘doorknockers’ targeting marginal seats.
“Most environmental organisations are focused 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, while opposition to mining was common in these organisations, many also are opposed to agriculture, fishing, tourism, urban development, ports, dams and roads.
“Many of these organisations are actively campaigning against development and infrastructure vital to underpin future economic growth and jobs in Queensland and elsewhere in Australia,” Senator Canavan said.
“They should not be allowed to make job-destroying political campaigns and activism tax-deductible.”
Senator Canavan also said the Government should issue guidelines to clarify the meaning of the “principal purpose” test. These guidelines should draw on overseas experience and should:
- include a list of activities that are permissible and those that are not; and
- prohibit premeditated, material or significant unlawful activities, the soliciting of donations to pay for fines, the making of demonstrably misleading statements and supporting or opposing political parties or candidates.
Further information on the inquiry is available at:
Matt’s submission (Number 493) can be downloaded at: