Queensland Senator Matt Canavan has condemned reports of taxpayer funding being used to pay court fines for environmental activists as “bizarre”.
Responding to media reports today, Senator Canavan said, if taxpayer funds were paying fines imposed for breaking laws passed by federal and state parliaments, that funding should be stopped.
“Many environmental activist organisations enjoy tax-deductible status for public donations,” he said. “This represents generous tax concessions from taxpayers and if this money is being used to pay fines for breaking the law, that is a truly bizarre situation that has to change.
“If people choose a path of civil disobedience, that is their free choice but don’t ask taxpayers to fund that choice. If someone wants to thumb-lock themselves to a dozer, don’t ask taxpayers to pay the penalty.
“If it blows their hair back to spend some time protesting and then stroll through a magistrate’s court for a morning, that’s their business. Regretfully, I have been caught speeding in the past but I never asked taxpayers to foot the bill. If the average person gets caught breaking the law, they don’t have taxpayers paying their fine.
“Activists look like they can thumb their noses at the court system because taxpayers are bankrolling their fines. That’s got to stop.”
Over the weekend, Lock the Gate spokesman Phil Laird reportedly refused to clarify recent comments by a related activist group that donations would be used to pay fines for protestors.
“This is the sort of activity that should be examined by the current House of Representatives inquiry into tax-deductible eco-charity donations and the extent to which they are used in supporting communities genuinely taking practical action to improve the environment.
“I am making a submission to the inquiry and will take a very keen interest in its deliberations and outcomes,” he said.
“Environmental lobbyists collect millions of dollars in tax-deductible funding. This is supposed to go to practical projects to benefit the natural environment, not allow protestors to treat our legislative and legal systems with disdain.
“It is a Kafkaesque situation if tax concessions meant to support environmental work wend their way through to pay court fines for law-breakers.”