Apr 11, 2005

Environment Minister silences environment groups

ENVIRONMENT MINISTER SILENCES ENVIRONMENT GROUPS

MEDIA RELEASE: Anthony Albanese – 11 April 2005

The Environment Minister, Ian Campbell, has moved to silence environment and heritage groups throughout Australia by slashing their funding and threatening their tax deductible status.

Senator Campbell has announced that Grants to Voluntary Environment and Heritage Organisations (GVEHO) for the 2004/05 financial year will be capped at $10 000 per agency. That automatically means that 14 major community groups will have massive funding cuts, and that’s before they even apply for next year’s funding. (Last year’s funding is attached.)

Senator Campbell has also slammed the door on agencies raising public awareness of the environment or pushing for stronger environmental protection. The Howard Government won’t fund these critical activities.

The GVEHO program is the lifeblood for State Conservation Councils and many local and national environment groups. Jobs will be lost, services will be cut. This will have a devastating effect on the environment.

The attack doesn’t stop there. Senator Campbell has also written to environment groups threatening their tax deductible status (attached). They are reminded that tax deductability is not available for “political” activities, such as pushing for stronger environmental laws. This represents a double whammy from a Government determined to silence civil society.

Without tax deductability, most environment groups would have to shut up shop. That would have dire consequences for our environment and be devastating for our democracy which relies upon community based organisations being able to function.

Senator Campbell’s track record is appalling. Since becoming Minister almost a year ago:

• He has refused to call a meeting of his two key non-government advisory bodies, the National Environment Consultative Forum and the National Heritage Consultative Forum;

• He has refused until now to tell environment and heritage groups what funding they will have for the current financial year; and

• He has watched over spiralling greenhouse emissions and has neglected our heritage, most evident by the destruction at Anzac Cove.

The Minister has demonstrated contempt for those community based organisations who are most passionate about defending our environment and heritage.