The long awaited final report from the House of Representatives Inquiry into environmental organisations has now been released. Many in the community had anticipated that the report would recommend changes that would severely limit the activities of environmental groups. Sadly, this is the case.
For background on this report and the political agenda against the environment movement, please check here.
The report acknowledges that environment groups are doing an important and necessary job in protecting our precious environment. However, it contains a number of deeply flawed recommendations, which if implemented would profoundly change the environmental protection movement in Australia.
“This is an attempt to carry out social engineering on environment groups in a way which would make them more palatable to mining companies and the far Right in the Coalition” said Cam Walker for Friends of the Earth Australia.
Friends of the Earth say the two most worrying recommendations are those that will seek to limit the amount of advocacy that environmental groups can carry out, and the suggestion that ‘administrative sanctions’ be applied to environmental groups that ‘encourage, support, promote, or endorse illegal or unlawful activity’.
“Illegal activity sounds sinister. In reality, the report is talking about peaceful protest and civil disobedience. These are tactics that have been used by the Australian environment movement for decades. Without peaceful protest, the Franklin River would have been dammed and a uranium mine would have been built at Jabiluka,” said Cam Walker.
This point is acknowledged by Coalition MP Jason Woods, who said in his report “it should be noted that it was due to environmental activists, through their efforts and through the use of a blockade, that major environmental disasters have been prevented”.
“It is not surprising that the inquiry failed to uncover any evidence of wrongdoing by environmental organisations that would require the loss of their Deductible Gift Recipient (DGR) status. The report contains some dangerous recommendations that will create an unnecessary, bureaucratic nightmare for the government and environmental groups, with costs being passed on to donors and, ultimately the taxpayer.”
“The mining sector called for this inquiry. It was widely denounced as a political show trial and an attempt to silence the movement. If all recommendations are implemented, it will distort the way environmental organisations work. This will be for the ultimate benefit of the fossil fuel and mining sectors. This was an Abbott Government inquiry that Minister Hunt should now confine to the dustbin.”
Friends of the Earth joins other environment groups in a united call for the Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Environment Minister Greg Hunt to reject the recommendations in the report:
“The Prime Minister and Minister Hunt should reject the report. Any administrative changes to the Register of Environmental Organisations done before the Federal election would confirm that the inquiry was all about politics and not about good management of environmental groups,” said Cam Walker
Friends of the Earth will keep a close eye on the Prime Minister and Environment Minister’s response to the report.
Further comment: Cam Walker 0419 338 047