MPs push to strip Greenpeace of its tax breaks

 

ENVIRONMENTAL warrior Greenpeace faces being stripped of its tax deductibility status as Morrison Government MPs label it "a fake charity" that supports law-breaking activists.

Greenpeace's focus on political activism and its championing of Extinction Rebellion has sparked behind-the-scenes pressure on ministers to abolish its lucrative taxpayer-funded concessions.

It comes as Cabinet Minister Matt Canavan declared that "free speech doesn't necessitate free funding".

Queensland LNP Senator James McGrath has asked Assistant Minister for Finance, Charities and Electoral Matters Zed Seselja "as a matter of urgency" to review why Greenpeace holds deductible gift recipient status (DGR), which allows donations by taxpayers to be refunded at tax time.

DGR costs the Federal Budget an eye-watering $2 billion a year.

The Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise.
The Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise.

Senator Seselja, who would not directly comment about the DGR status of Greenpeace, hinted the charity sector was facing a significant overhaul in the coming year.

Senator Seselja recently supported the Australian Charities and Not-for-profit Commission (ACNC) stripping Aussie Farms of its charity status.

"When groups like Aussie Farms are put in the same group as charities like the Fred Hollows Foundation and the Salvation Army, it undermines the entire sector," Senator Seselja said.

"I take any concerns raised with me, by colleagues or the public, about the conduct of a charity seriously, and I raise these concerns with the ACNC Commissioner where appropriate."

A Greenpeace member protests outside the Hilton Hotel in the Brisbane CBD. Picture: Peter Wallis
A Greenpeace member protests outside the Hilton Hotel in the Brisbane CBD. Picture: Peter Wallis

Senator McGrath told Senator Seselja it was hard to fathom how Greenpeace was bettering the environment with practical measures.

"Rather than planting trees or saving sea creatures, this fake charity is pouring donations into ongoing political campaigns, which are designed to deliver more donations to their coffers rather than delivering environmental outcomes,'' he said.

The charity reported it had raised close to $20 million in its last financial statement and had devoted more than 90 per cent of that to "engagement, including campaigning, fundraising, lobbying, public communication", Senator McGrath said.

"Australian taxpayers should not be subsidising global campaign funds for an international organisation that seeks to deny Queenslanders jobs, tarnish our country's reputation and reduce our standard of living,'' he said.

While Senator Canavan would not outline his views on whether Greenpeace should be stripped of DGR, he implied there was a need for significant reform.

"It is right and proper that people can protest against political parties, philosophies and activities that offend them so long as they do them peacefully and obey the law,'' Senator Canavan said.

"It isn't appropriate that such protests are funded by concessions from taxpayers who don't share their views.

"Democratic rights don't extend to requiring taxpayers to unwittingly fund political debate and activity.

"Free speech doesn't necessitate free funding."

A proposal about charity reform will be taken to Cabinet early next year.

Actress Lucy Lawless protests for Greenpeace.
Actress Lucy Lawless protests for Greenpeace.

 

GREENPEACE HISTORY

● Founded in 1971 by American-born environmentalists Irving and Dorothy Stowe.

● Its first action started when activists set sail from Vancouver to protest US nuclear testing off the coast of Alaska.

● Launched in Australia in 1977 when activists put themselves between harpoon ships and sperm whales off WA.

● Anti-whaling missions would continue in the Antarctic for more than three decades, resulting in ships being damaged.

● One person dies when Greenpeace's Rainbow Warrior ship (left) is bombed and sunk while berthed in New Zealand in 1985. French agents carried out the bombing in retaliation for Greenpeace's protests against French nuclear testing.

● In 2007, Greenpeace flagship renamed MY Steve Irwin.

● Greenpeace launches campaign to stop deepwater oil drilling in the Great Australian Bight.

● Stop Adani movement is launched in 2018, pressuring banks and governments not to provide funding for the Galilee Basin mega-mine.

● In May 2019, 13 activists were arrested after abseiling off the Sydney Harbour Bridge



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