Minister for the Environment, the Honourable Greg Hunt MP. What a title. Pity the guy doesn’t deserve it.
Hunt’s latest effort is to conduct a Parliamentary Inquiry into the Register of Environmental Organisations, which maintains records for eligible organisations and carries with it tax deductibility status, and annual reporting obligations.
The Terms of Reference clearly reflect an intention to amend the qualifying rules to ensure environmental groups that aren’t directly involved in ‘on-ground activities’ like tree planting, will have a hard time staying on the Register. Groups whose primary interest is in political lobbying on behalf of people who value the environment, such as the Environmental Defenders Office, the Wilderness Society and others, may lose support deductibility status, leading to fewer donations and ultimately less political clout.
What sort of crazy political system would it be if we facilitated and supported organisations that involve themselves in political decisions on behalf of people who care about the environment?
The Honourable Minister for the Environment better do something about that.
Sarcasm aside, the sad story behind this Inquiry is one of an elite group of vested interests pulling the strings of both major parties in Australian politics. Hunt knows the game is about a trade in favours, and he is doing his utmost to signal to mining and other business interests that he is on their side, and that he is a willing participant in a game of quid pro quo. I have no doubt that our ‘environment minister’ will find himself on the payroll of a major mining interest, or more than one, when he retires from politics.
While cleaning up our political system will just about require a revolution, there a couple of simple things you can do about this Inquiry if you are interested in having an Australia that has an active organisational sector representing environmental protection.
You can sign this petition at change.org.
Or you can write a submission to the Inquiry yourself.
My submission is here (pdf) if you would like to copy from it in part or in whole.