Jun 15, 2005

Punishment of environment groups is short-sighted

Punishment of environment groups is short-sighted

MEDIA RELEASE – Anthony Albanese MP – 15 June 2005

Most of the on-the-ground work to save and preserve Australia’s beautiful environment is done by volunteers.

Yesterday the Environment Minister slashed funding for environment groups, including all State and Territory Conservation Councils, the Australian Conservation Foundation and WWF Australia.

The Grants to Voluntary Environment and Heritage Organisations program is the lifeblood for voluntary environment groups, Conservation Councils and heritage societies. Cutting the Grants program weakens the protection of our environment.

It is a short-sighted decision which will mean many community groups and heritage societies will go under.

Removing funding to environmental groups will also hurt the tourism industry. Campaigns by environment groups saved virtually all of Australia’s tourism icons.

The Australian tourism industry relies heavily on the beauty of Sydney Harbour, the Great Barrier Reef, Uluru, Kakadu, South West Tasmania and the Daintree.

Confining the environment movement to tree planting is aimed at stopping the environment movement having an impact as they have in the past.

The Government should acknowledge what the tourism industry knows – that without groups advocating environmental protection many of the natural wonders Australians are most proud of would have been destroyed.

The Howard Government has also threatened the tax deductible status for environment and heritage groups. The groups have been reminded in a letter from the Minister that tax deductibility is not available for “political” activities, such as pushing for stronger environmental laws. Without tax deductibility, most environment groups would have to shut up shop.

Environment and heritage groups play an important role in civil society and cuts to their activities will have dire consequences for our environment and be devastating for our democracy which relies upon community based organisations.