Media Release – Coalition opposes free speech?
Sustainable Population Australia Inc.
Patrons: Hon. Bob Carr, Dr Paul Collins, Prof Tim Flannery, Em Prof Ian Lowe, Dr Mary E White
Youth Ambassador: Ms Bindi Irwin
PO Box 3851
Weston Creek, ACT, 2611
Ph (02) 6288 6810
13th May, 2016: for immediate use
If the Coalition has its way free speech is to be confined to that which agrees with their dictates. This is clearly shown in a House of Representatives committee report released, so as not to be noticed, in the days leading to the calling of the election.
Hundreds of environment groups in Australia have been assessed by the Australian Tax Office as worthy of receiving tax deductible donations. The work of these groups usually includes advocacy, such as lobbying for the adoption of more renewable energy or arguing against more coal mines. This advocacy sometimes brings them into conflict with government policy.
The House of Representatives Standing Committee on the Environment led an Inquiry into the tax deductibility of donations to such groups. The terms of reference were deliberately worded to produce a report that would curb the ability of environmental organisations to use deductible donations to undertake advocacy work. The final report, released last week, does just that.
Fortunately, Labor members of the Committee dissented from the principal recommendation and Liberal MP, Jason Wood, has expressed concerns about it.
The report, if adopted, would seriously inhibit the freedom of environment groups to advocate for policies different from government or specific interests even when that advocacy was supported by members of the public wishing to make donations for that purpose.
It would require many environment organisations to change their objectives and their mode of action to comply. The recommendations encourage organisations to do manual work to repair environmental damage but restricts advocacy against the practices that cause the damage in the first place.
If adopted it would swing the balance a long way toward those with commercial and vested interests who can claim their advocacy (advertising) as a tax deduction.
Following the defunding of Environmental Defender Organisations by the Abbott Government, the Turnbull Government appears to be conspiring to permanently weaken all forms of environmental advocacy in Australia.
Environment group, Sustainable Population Australia, calls on all party leaders to dissociate their parties from the biased and deliberately damaging report of this committee. Freedom of speech, even when that speech is contrary to government policy or that of other special interest groups, is central to democracy.
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Sandra Kanck, National President, Sustainable Population Australia
About Sustainable Population Australia: SPA is an independent not-for-profit organisation formed in 1988 to promote an understanding of the effects of human population numbers on the biosphere and society.