There is a serious push on to muzzle environmental advocates – again.
By Brendan Sydes
I’ve just finished sending out the last of our receipts to the many hundreds of people who responded to our end of financial year appeal.
It’s so encouraging to all of the EJA team that so many people are prepared to contribute financial support to our work.
As we are a “Deductible Gift Recipient” some of our supporters will choose to claim their donation as a tax deduction.
This opportunity to contribute to not just EJA but other charitable and public interest causes is a great additional incentive, supporting public contributions to a thriving not for profit sector. Unfortunately for organisations like ours on the Register of Environmental Organisations this tax deductibility status is under attack – again.
We are fortunate to live in a democracy with a strong charity sector, of which conservationists and environmental lawyers are an important part.
Some of Australia’s most important environmental gains – protection for places like the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu and the Kimberley – have been achieved when environmentalists have advocated for better protection of these great national assets.
Australia has laws to protect our unique environment. Those laws need to be enforced. That’s what we do. Sometimes too, these laws don’t work very well and need to be changed – we work to do that too.
This advocacy, and your right to support such work through tax deductible donations, is under threat. At present there is a serious push on to muzzle environment groups. Initiated by the mining lobby and extreme right-wing think tanks, there is a political push to strip environmental charities of tax deductible status of if they engage in public debate and legal actions to encourage better government policies.
The mining lobby would like us to just plant trees and pick up rubbish, not scrutinise the activities and proposals of the resource extraction industry.
Never mind that mining companies receive billions of federal government dollars every year to subsidise their diesel fuel bills!
But we won’t be silenced. Reefs, rivers, forests, clean air, water and wildlife can’t speak for themselves, so we represent Australian communities that want to protect these things.
Without the work of advocates and environmental lawyers there would be oil rigs on the Great Barrier Reef and a dam on Tasmania’s Franklin River.
At EJA we believe people should be able to direct their money to whatever causes they value. We know Australians value our unique species and special places.
While a small set of vested interests may not like it when we speak out, it’s essential for nature and democracy in Australia.
Read Lenore Taylor’s analysis in Guardian Australia: Government’s letter to conservation groups has ominous implications