Environmental groups should be required to ensure that at least 80 per cent of their funding is spent doing on-ground work as a government inquiry into tax-deductible donations to hundreds of organisations continues.
Headed by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on the Environment, SSAA National was invited to appear before the inquiry into the Register of Environmental Organisations (REO) to answer questions about our submission. The aim of the inquiry is to look at the administration, transparency and effectiveness of the REO under the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997 in supporting practical action to improve the environment. The SSAA is not listed on the REO and does not receive tax-deductible status, nor are we seeking it at this time.
SSAA National Special Projects Officer Pest and Wildlife Management Matthew Godson appeared before the inquiry in Adelaide on September 1. He stressed the need for groups to spend tax-deductible donations on real environmental work, not political campaigning or green activism.
“As a large community-based organisation we have invested heavily in the environment through activities undertaken by our state branches and our many individual members,” he told the inquiry.
“We believe that the average taxpayer would want funding used in the manner that benefits the environment by practical on-ground action.
“It is unacceptable for the taxpayer to fund activities that include the spread of misinformation, the creation of scare campaigns, and at times, promoting the vilification of a section of the Australian community.
“We predominately want the focus to be on actual on-ground environmental work. This would be pick and spade work, landscape restoration, wildlife management and scientific research type activities. We are not of the opinion that environmental activism should be supported by the taxpayer.”
Committee chair Alex Hawke MP said more than 600 environmental groups can currently receive tax-deductible donations to “fund important, practical work to improve the natural environment”.
“We need to ensure that tax deductible donations, which are a generous concession from the taxpayer, are used for the purpose intended and expected by the community,” he said.