The Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) is deeply concerned that the Deputy Prime Minister’s extraordinary attack on public interest environment groups represents a disturbing disregard for civil society, democratic discourse and the public good at the top of the Turnbull Government.
On behest of the powerful mining lobby, the Turnbull Government is currently considering severely restricting the advocacy activities of public interest organisations that attract tax deductibility status on donations amid a wider set of anti-democratic proposals to limit the work of civil society groups.
ACF Chief Executive, Kelly O’Shanassy, said it was ironic that Mr Joyce’s speech had been made at an event held by the Minerals Council of Australia in Parliament House, an organisation that consistently sought to lobby and influence politicians into loosening safeguards against destructive and polluting development.
“The Deputy Prime Minister is a smart man. So I can’t understand how he missed the hypocrisy of attacking the tax deductibility status of donations to advocacy groups to an audience of companies who were able to write off millions of dollars in contributions to the Minerals Council from their company tax.
“Unlike the rich and powerful people who donate to Mr Joyce’s election campaigns, like Gina Rinehart, the vast majority of our supporters are ordinary Australians who simply care about the air they breathe, the water they drink and the planet they live on.
“Thanks to advocacy, kids can snorkel the Great Barrier Reef with no oil rigs. The Franklin River flows. Fish and birds are returning to Murray floodplains. Our cars don’t all run on leaded petrol.
“Mr Joyce’s comments are not just an attack on the democratic principles of free and open debate that is underpinned by public interest advocacy. They are also an attack on the ordinary mums and dads supporters of environment groups who choose to invest some of their hard earned money to help protect the public good.
“A warming planet, polluted waterways and disappearing forests hurt all Australians. Mr Joyce has forgotten that. Instead he is choosing to protect the bottom line of his powerful mates in the mining industry above all else.”