ENVIRONMENTALISM: by Patrick J. ByrneNews Weekly
Community legal centres under review over anti-coal campaign
, October 27, 2012
The Queensland and New South Wales state governments are reviewing environmental defenders offices (EDOs) following their role in a Greenpeace-led plan to disrupt Australia’s coal export industry.
EDOs receive federal and state government funding, have tax-deductibility status and are part of a large number of community legal centres (CLCs).
News Weekly has found that grants from the federal Attorney-General’s Department, over the period 2009-12, have included:
• $530,375 to the Queensland Environmental Defenders Office; and
• $526,290 to the NSW Environmental Defenders Office Ltd.
The Queensland and NSW EDOs participated in the anti-coal campaign, which aimed to block the expansion of Australia’s coal export industry (see News Weekly, April 14, 2012).
The Stopping the Australian Coal Export Boom strategy document was made public earlier this year. It argued that “legal challenges can stop projects outright, or can delay them in order to buy time to build a much stronger movement and powerful public campaigns”.
The new Queensland LNP government has announced a wide-ranging review of community legal centres, such as the Queensland EDO, and their role in political activism.
Recently, NSW Attorney-General Greg Smith announced to a parliamentary committee that the government was reviewing CLCs.
As he put it: “Our emphasis is on the main purpose that we thought the money should be used for: those who are really poor and in need of assistance. If agencies do not seem to be spending sufficient amounts of money on those things, but are spending it on other things such as political advocacy, then we would say that money should be used by organisations that will fund the poor and the homeless.”
There are 581 Australian environmental groups with tax-deductibility status, many of them receiving government funding. These include state EDOs.
Patrick J. Byrne, “Radical green strategy to sabotage Australian coal-mines, railways and ports”, News Weekly, March 31, 2012.
Patrick J. Byrne, “Anti-coal campaign gets underway in Queensland”, News Weekly, April 14, 2012.
Patrick J. Byrne, “ASIO investigates ‘government-backed’ anti-coal campaign”, News Weekly, May 12, 2012.