A week can hardly go by lately without a new attack on
environmental justice in Australia. The latest threat comes from Andrew
Nikolic, Federal Member for the Tasmanian seat of Bass.
The Liberal MP has moved to strip charity status
from environmental groups, who he perceives as a threat to Tasmanian
prosperity i.e. the Tasmanian logging industry. The motion was
unanimously endorsed by his party at their Federal Council meeting.
Some 13 groups would be impacted by the motion, no longer eligible to
receive tax deductible donations. This includes prominent
organisations like the Wilderness Society, the Australian Conservation
Society and all state EDOs.
Nikolic has described
these environmental groups as engaging in political activism and
illegal activities, and doesn’t believe that taxpayers should be
subsidising their green agenda, which he believes is damaging to the
“I moved the motion because I
think the activities of these groups has been enormously damaging on
our state of Tasmania, I think we’ve seen for far too long these groups
undertaking activities like boot camps and engaging in political
activism, illegal activism.
This is the latest in a string of desperate attempts by Tasmanian
Liberal politicians to rein in the power of conservation groups in the
Last week, anti-protest laws
were passed in Tasmania’s Lower House, aimed at stopping forestry
activists through large fines and jail time. And you might remember
Senator Richard Colbeck’s tried-and-failed-and-tried-again attempts to
introduce legislation banning secondary boycotts, a powerful protest measure which so successfully brought the mighty Gunns pulp mill to its knees.
The battle for the Tassie wilderness has been long fought, most
recently with Abbott’s unprecedented attempts to delist 74,000 hectares
of Tasmania’s heritage listed forests. The self-proclaimed ‘conservationist’ (don’t you mean conservative, Tony?) stated,
“We have quite enough
national parks. We have quite enough locked up forests already. In fact,
in an important respect, we have too much locked up forest.”
It took UNESCO a mere 10 minutes to reject this ludicrous proposal, calling the bid ‘feeble’.
In light of UNESCO’s recent decision, the conservative lobby is
growing increasingly concerned. And it’s not just the Tasmanian Liberal
Party who are worried.
The growth of the grassroots environmental movement in Australia has
ushered in a new era of environmental protest. Online campaigning has
made large, crowd-funded legal actions possible, while social media has
engaged and mobilised people to take part in blockades and protests.
Recent victories against the destructive resources sector have resonated among Australians with the defeat of CSG at Bentley, a coal export facility at Keppel Bay and an open-cut mine in Leard State Forest. Two crowd funded legal actions against the government over their plans to industrialise the Great Barrier Reef has drawn international attention, and criticism.
In moves some have called fascist,
the government is trying to silence its critics by cutting their
funding and attempting to discredit our scientific institutions. But
gagging environmental groups serves only to galvanise the communities
who live on the front line, who see first hand the destruction caused to
their land, their water, their future.
Communities across Australia are responding to the call to action,
putting their time, money and bodies on the line – and winning.
You can follow Kate on Twitter @kateokate
Also by Kate O’Callaghan:
Pokie-Tourism: Campbell Newman’s Dream for our Tropical North
Abbott’s International Tour de Farce