given the urgency of the environmental crisis, an increasing number of Australians recognise that we need environmental groups who do more than plant trees.
In the run to this year’s Paris climate talks and next year’s federal election, we need laws that encourage full-blooded political participation.
Government inquiry takes aim at green charities that ‘get political’ The Conversation, Peter BurdonSenior lecturer at University of Adelaide 16 Apr 15 The almost 600 environmental groups that hold tax-deductibility status in Australia are being scrutinised by a federal government inquiry, with reports that more than 100 of them face being struck off the list.
Some, like the state and territory Conservation Councils and Environmental Defenders Offices, are still reeling from cuts to their programs and core funding. Others, such as Greenpeace, The Wilderness Society, and Friends of the Earth, could lose access to the tax-deductible donations that help sustain their work.
Encouraging donations Deductible gift-recipient status allows eligible organisations, such as those on the environmental register, to receive tax-deductible gifts and contributions. Consistent with similar schemes in the United States and Europe, the environmental register was established as an incentive for citizens and corporations to fund organisations that are active in the public sphere, while also feeding into the logic of small government and shifting the burden of catering for social needs back onto the community.
Importantly, however, in 2010 the High Court ruled that groups with tax-deductible status also have the right to engage in political debate and advocacy. The judgement described the freedom to speak out on political issues as “indispensable” for “representative and responsible government”.
Moreover, the court pointed out that there is no general rule that excludes “political objects” from charitable purposes. Instead, the key consideration is whether the organisation “contributes to the public welfare”. The ruling has been used as a precedent both in Australia and overseas, such as when Greenpeace won a favourable decision from the New Zealand Supreme Court last year.
Why is Australia holding the inquiry? Continue reading
Government MP steps up campaign against eco-charity tax concessions, ABC News, 10 Apr 15 By Conor Duffy More than 100 environment groups face being struck off a register that gives them tax deductibility status enjoyed by charities and research organisations.
A parliamentary inquiry into the Register of Environmental Organisations has begun taking submissions, with some Government MPs agitating for a cull of the 600-strong register.
Queensland LNP senator Matthew Canavan said a preliminary audit showed eco-charities were getting tax deductibility status to engage in political rather than environmental activity……….
Cam Walker from Friends of the Earth believes that protesting and lobbying is important environmental work.
“I think the Australian people are very sharp, they realise that protecting the environment isn’t just a case of planting some trees,” Mr Walker said.
“They realise that in the current context it’s political activity that brings about change.”
Government accused of being driven by ideology
Friends of the Earth has already come under Government scrutiny.
In the run-up to the last election it received a $130,000 donation which was spent on market research and used in conjunction with GetUp! for political campaigning.
It is currently being audited by the Australian Tax Office, but has been cleared in a separate Environment Department investigation………
Inquiry ‘more about politics than facts’
Environment NGOs said funding had already been cut for environmental campaigns and lawyers, and the latest move was part of a campaign against the sector.
“The current House of Representatives inquiry is an attempt to silence the environment movement. We have no doubt that this is more about politics than about facts,” Mr Walker said……..
Other groups like the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA), which campaigns on behalf of big business to remove environmental protections, also have tax deductibility status.
NGO academic and vice-president of Environment Victoria, Joan Staples, said that was hypocritical.
“The department that scrutinises them, which is not the Environment Department but the Industry Department, should be scrutinising them much more closely and look at whether they really are producing what that tax deductibility status requires of them,” she said……….http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-04-10/environment-groups-could-lose-tax-concession-status/6384554
George Brandis says Bloggers won’t be covered by Metadata Amendments MAR 18 by conspiracyoz Lanai Scarr www.couriermail.com.au BLOGGERS are unlikely to be covered by provisions protecting journalists in the government’s controversial metadata retention bill…… Prime Minister Tony Abbott yesterday agreed to amend the laws to ensure journalists be better protected under the bill amid fears investigative journalism would be stifled.
A further amendment will be moved requiring law enforcement agencies to obtain a warrant to access journalists’ metadata to identify a source.
But Senator Brandis said bloggers would not be covered by the provisions. “I wouldn’t regard bloggers as journalists,” Senator Brandis told ABC radio……Independent Senator Nick Xenophon said there should be provisions in the amendment that would ensure a journalist would know when a warrant was being issued.
He said Australia should follow the lead of the US on the laws.
“(Whistleblowers) won’t come forward if they don’t know they will be protected.
“It will have a chilling effect on investigative journalism.”
Under the government’s new data retention laws which it hopes to pass in the next sitting fortnight, Australian phone and internet providers will be required to store various customer metadata for up to two years for law-enforcement agencies’ access.
No warrant will be required to access the data, just an agencies’ senior officer’s sign off……..http://conspiracyoz.com/2015/03/18/george-brandis-says-bloggers-wont-be-covered-by-metadata-amendments/
Protesters face new laws Daniel EmersonMarch 6, 2015, The Barnett Government has declared war on radical protesters with new laws criminalising thumb-locks, barrel locks or any other way of physically preventing or threatening lawful activity.The laws – introduced to the Legislative Council last week without fanfare – reverse the onus of proof, carry maximum penalties of two years jail or a $24,000 fine and ensure cost recovery for any police response.
Stung in recent years by campaigns against shark culling, gas processing at James Price Point and, more recently, logging of Mowen Forest in the South West, the Government says it needs enhanced laws to combat evolving tactics of protesters. The Opposition has warned the wording of the Bill prohibiting the “physical prevention of a lawful activity” is so broad it could capture a range of activities, including sit-in protests at electorate offices or marches that impede traffic.
The laws make intentionally or physically preventing a lawful activity an offence punishable by 12 months jail or a $12,000 fine. Police suspicion is enough to determine the intention was there, which the accused person must disprove in court.
The penalties double when the conduct risks physical harm to anyone, including the accused. It will also be an offence to manufacture or possess any “thing” suspected to be used for physically preventing lawful action……..
AUDIO: Minerals Council calls for green groups to be stripped of charity status ABC Radio The World Today Tim Lamacraft reported this story on February 16, 2015
ELEANOR HALL: The peak lobby for the New South Wales mining industry is calling for green groups to be stripped of their charity status. The Minerals Council says activists are masquerading as environment organisations and should not receive special tax treatment.
Critics say it’s an attempt to squash free speech.
Tim Lamacraft has our report……..
SIMON LONGSTAFF: When the NSW Minerals Council makes this claim, I’d really be cautious to know whether or not their membership supports this.
There’s some very large international companies, like BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto there, and I’d be quite personally surprised if they supported this kind of call.
The second thing I’d be wanting to think about is who’s actually making the call, and in the case of the Minerals Council from New South Wales, they are a body which is an industry association, they have an interest to promote things like subsidies, tax relief for mining and a whole lot of other benefits and clearly anything which seems to stymie the progress of their members……..
PHIL LAIRD: Minerals Council have had a history of trying to silence people who oppose different projects that are put up.
They’ve only just recently put a strategy in to try and remove the planning assessment commission in New South Wales, the independent decision maker, after two mines had been rejected.
What they see is how farmers and others who have a charity that’s working on their behalf to put forward their concerns about mining and for the Minerals Council this is something that they don’t want to see.
I think that these guys are trying to shut down free speech on behalf of multimillion dollar mining companies who are basically exporting our wealth overseas. http://www.abc.net.au/worldtoday/content/2015/s4180628.htm
Explainer: Why the Tasmanian Government abandoned defamation law changes, ABC News 5 Feb 15 By Michael Atkin Tasmania was pushing to become the first state in the country to allow companies to sue people for defamation but recently dumped the proposal, breaking an election promise. Attorney-General Vanessa Goodwin admitted there was zero appetite from other states for the move.
It was the second blow to the Government’s plans to crackdown on forest protesters, a push much heralded in last year’s election campaign.
In the Government’s sights were groups like Markets For Change, Bob Brown Foundation and activists like Miranda Gibson who sat in a tree for a record 457 days……….
the move prompted widespread criticism from lawyers, environmentalists, civil libertarians. Even Australian businesswoman Janet Holmes a Court joined the campaign against the move.
Backlash beyond Tasmanian borders
Peter Bartlett, a partner at Minter Ellison Lawyer, defends some of the country’s top media organisations in court. He said breaking away from Australia’s uniform defamation laws was a retrograde step that could have turned Tasmania into the defamation capital of the country.
“We have a uniform defamation act, it took us nearly 30 years to get the states and territories and the Commonwealth to get a like mind … and they were able to agree to uniformity which meant that one of terms [was] corporations were not allowed to sue,” Mr Bartlett said.
“State and territory borders are largely irrelevant to the media so they would need to self censor because of the risk of a corporation suing them in Tasmania.”
Crikey’s business editor Paddy Manning was sued by the big end of town and he was concerned that if Tasmania proceeded it would happen more often. “It’s already quite difficult to write tough [and] investigative stories about big business in Australia,” he said.
“I think it’s undemocratic. It’s an attack on free speech and it’s not the way we do things in this country.
“Misinformation is actually in the eye of the beholder and business does not need another law reform in its favour that’s going to lead to open slather on journalists just because Tasmania wants to shut down its forestry debate.” http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-02-05/why-tasmania-backed-down-on-defamation-law-changes/6072170
The Coalition government fought hard to give the captains and cabin boys of industry what they wanted. Ruddock insisted that companies be able to sue their detractors in the courts, but the Labor state governments wanted the prohibition against corporate libel actions to be the rule across the nation. It was one of the sticking points during the negotiations and, in the end, to get agreement Ruddock relented.
There was a weird sort of compromise, whereby only very small corporations, of less than 10 employees, could sue in their own name. This was a crumb tossed off the table so the commonwealth attorney general could save face.
Such has been the case since the uniform Defamation Act came into being in 2006. Now, nine years later, the Hodgman Liberal government in Tasmania is proposing to break ranks, amend its act and let corporations of all stripes off the leash so they can sink their fangs into citizens critical of “job creating” proposals……… Continue reading
Labor lashes timing of defamation law change DUNCAN ABEY MERCURY JANUARY 12, 2015 NEW corporate defamation laws proposed by the Tasmanian Government represent a direct attack on freedom of speech and will stifle public debate, the Opposition says.
And deputy Labor leader Michelle O’Byrne said the timing could not be worse, in the wake of the deadly attacks on the staff of satirical Paris-based magazine Charlie Hedbo.
“Once again Tasmania is at the front of the national stage for the wrong reasons,” Ms O’Byrne said.
“The State Government wants to bring in legislation around defamation that will mean nobody can ever say anything against a corporation.
“Now this doesn’t just apply to the people the Government says it will target, such as forestry protesters, but it will apply to individuals and it will apply to the media.
“The right to free speech has never been more warmly embraced by the world than after what we have seen in Paris, and for nobody to be ever allowed to say anything negative about a corporation just smacks of silencing dissent.”………….http://www.themercury.com.au/news/tasmania/labor-lashes-timing-of-defamation-law-change/story-fnj4f7k1-1227181465484
Hawke government schemed to stymie Maralinga nuclear test compensation, cabinet documents reveal http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/south-australia/hawke-government-schemed-to-stymie-maralinga-nuclear-test-compensation-cabinet-documents-reveal/story-fni6uo1m-1227171284110 PETER JEAN POLITICAL REPORTER THE ADVERTISER JAN 1, 2015 THE statute of limitations was invoked by the Hawke Government to prevent hundreds of compensation actions being pursued in court by veterans of British nuclear tests in Australia.
Government documents from 1988 and 1989 released by the National Archives of Australia reveal that cabinet decided to try and invoke time-limit rules to fight court compensation actions launched after 1988. Continue reading
Brisbane G20: Airport vetoes #onmyagenda climate change billboard, Brisbane Times November 3, 2014 Tony Moore brisbanetimes.com.au senior reporter Brisbane Airport Corporation has vetoed a “political” billboard asking for climate change to be added to this month’s G20 conference.
The billboard – backed by nine national and international conservation groups – was planned for Brisbane International Airport.
A second billboard is being unveiled in Peel Street at South Brisbane on Monday.
The groups wanted world leaders and their delegates to see the billboard as they arrived in Brisbane. The #onmyagenda campaign encourages people to tweet G20 leaders asking them to include climate change as a stand-alone item on the G20 agenda.
Climate change issues have been on the agendas at eight previous eight G20 summits.
It is not on the agenda in Brisbane.
The decision comes as the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on Sunday released its most recent report on the impact of climate change.
The report found that the world must stop almost all greenhouse gas emissions through a phased elimination of fossil fuels by 2100 if we are to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged companies to disinvest from fossil fuel-based industries.
In broad terms, the UN IPCC report finds there are “multiple pathways” available to keep global warming below two degrees.
All of these pathways require “substantial” cuts to greenhouse gas emissions over the next few decades, and “near zero” emissions by the end of the century, the report’s authors concluded.
BAC told Fairfax Media the billboards were rejected last Wednesday because they were deemed to be “political”.http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/brisbane-g20/brisbane-g20-airport-vetoes-onmyagenda-climate-change-billboard-20141103-11fzdm.html#ixzz3I9Xt6bP9
Commandos and Black Hawk helicopters stage operations in Brisbane CBD as G20 security ramps up http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-11-03/g20-security-ramps-up/5861514
Around 50 personnel dressed like commandos, armed with semi automatic rifles and wearing body armour staged the training exercise on Sunday.
Courier Mail photographer Marc Robertson stumbled on the operation, and said there were four helicopters “only a few feet from the buildings”.
“I counted about 50 blokes wearing paramilitary uniforms, combat pants, and wearing body armour carrying full automatic weapons,” he said.
“They are not wearing any insignia at all… there was a lot of action in amongst the buildings.
There was no official information about the operation, but Queensland police confirmed they had been assisting with traffic control for a G20 training exercise in the CBD.
Meanwhile, the RAAF said the public would notice increased activity in the skies over south-east Queensland in the lead-up to the summit.
It said fighter jets, Black Hawk helicopters and surveillance planes would increase patrols, and conduct training exercises. Commander of ADF support to the G20 Major General Stuart Smith said the training period would allow the military to sharpen their response skills.
G20 security: Soldiers man checkpoints in inner-Brisbane ahead of summit ABC News 4 Nov 14 By John Taylor Soldiers and police have begun stopping and searching vehicles going into G20 restricted zones in inner-Brisbane.
Checkpoints have been set up at Milton and Spring Hill to search for explosives and weapons, manned by military personnel who have served in war zones.
Major General Stuart Smith said the soldiers and police would be involved in the searches over the next fortnight, using high-tech latest equipment.
“You’ve got soldiers here that have got experience in Afghanistan doing high-profile search techniques and they’ve done specific rehearsals to build them up in cooperation with the police over the last few months,” he said………
More than 900 soldiers will be helping with security during G20 and have spent months training for every eventuality.
Barricades to go up as ‘countries take over hotels’
Barricades and fencing will begin appearing around Brisbane city from next week, G20 Assistant Police Commissioner Katarina Carroll said………
At the weekend, two people were served with notices prohibiting them from the G20……..
On Sunday night dozens of soldiers with machine guns and body armour took part in an exercise in the CBD…….http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-11-03/soldiers-to-man-g20-checkpoints-in-brisbane-for-searches/5863054
The following summarizes some of the key conclusions of the Royal Commission:
- The Australian government controlled media reporting such that news items provided what the UK government deemed suitable only;
- Prior to the first tests on the Australian mainland, the Government Cabinet, Parliament and news media were not informed of what was happening;
- It is likely that the major tests resulted in a general increase in cancer within the Australian population;
- Exposure to radiation increased the risk of cancer in nuclear veterans;
- There was a failure to adequately take into account the distinctive lifestyle of Aboriginal people living in the region;
- The authorities were negligent in their management, equipping and briefing of the crews of the Lincoln aircraft who were directed to fly through the nuclear cloud in the Totem 1 test;
- In the Buffalo tests, “. . . the attempts to ensure Aboriginal safety during the Buffalo series demonstrate ignorance, incompetence and cynicism on the part of those responsible for that safety.” (12)
This summary is a very small and selective account of the content of the Royal Commission’s Report.
Since Hiroshima: Australia’s Active Involvement in the Use and Abuse of Nuclear Energy Sunday, 05 October 2014 09:59By Lindsay Fitzclarence, Truthout “………..By 1952, the government had signed a contract with the CDA (Combined Development Agency) representing the UK and United States to supply uranium (5).
At the same time, in a remarkable expression of executive power, the pro-royalist prime minister of Australia, Robert Menzies, agreed to a British request to begin testing of atomic weapons in its former colony (6). At the dawn of the Cold War nuclear arms race, Australia was an active participant at both ends of the weapons cycle: the source of primary nuclear fuel and as a nuclear testing ground. Continue reading
To many Traditional Owners, these places are known as sickness country, or poison country, and are often considered sacred. Upsetting the poison and letting out into the landscape would be a disaster, particularly in the life giving and food providing Mitchel River basin.
The Bill, passed in parliament in early September, gives the Coordinator General the power to exclude community objection rights over some of the largest mining projects
Mining companies now have more rights than the community in Newman’s Queensland http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2014/10/01/comment-mining-companies-now-have-more-rights-community-newmans-queensland 1 Oct 14 Queenslanders have more reason than ever to be concerned about uranium mining in the sunshine state. By Andrew Picone Back in 2012 Queensland Premier Campbell Newman made a series of ‘crystal clear’ commitments to keep the door closed to uranium mining in Queensland. In a letter to former ACF CEO Don Henry, Newman wrote “I take this opportunity to reaffirm my statements, made before the last election, that the State Government has no plans to approve the development of uranium in Queensland”.
It proved to be one of his first broken promises. Just a fortnight later this commitment was dumped, without any independent assessment or community consultation. Uranium mining would not just be permitted in Queensland, the Premier started actively encouraging uranium mining companies to set up shop in the sunshine state.
Fast forward to 2014 and Queenslanders have more reason than ever to be concerned. In an echo of the heavy handed police state politics that so characterized former Queensland Premier Joh Bjelke Petersen, the Queensland government’s hand-picked co-ordinator general will now have sole authority over major new mining projects.
Proposed legislative changes introduced in the Mineral and Energy Resources (Common Provisions) Bill 2014, literally rushed through the Parliament at five minutes to midnight on September 9th 2014, in particular provision 47D entitled ‘restriction in giving of objection notice under the Environmental Protection Act’ – should sound the community alarm. Continue reading
1 Sept 14, Australian resident Natalie Lowrey was refused entry into Malaysia after returning as an observer on the criminalisation of environmental defenders against Australian rare earth miner, Lynas Corporation. On arrival at in Malaysia, Lowrey was detained by customs who said she had been blacklisted by Bukit Aman (the police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur) and that she would be deported back to the country she flew in from. She is being sent to Bali and will fly into Sydney on Tuesday 2 September at 6.50am. Lowrey was informed of a strict denial of entry to Malaysia, reasons not given.
Australian rare earths company, Lynas Corporation Ltd, whose processing plant is in Kuantan, Malaysia is the focus of Malaysia’s largest environmental movement. Lynas has been under pressure for the past three years for having no social licence to operate. Their 2 year Temporary Operating Licence (TOL) is due to expire on 2nd September. Continue reading