Inquiry into environmental organisations

Earlier this year, the House of Representatives Standing Committee on the Environment began a process to inquire into and report on the administration and transparency of the Register of Environmental Organisations and its effectiveness in supporting communities to take practical action to improve the environment. As part of this process, SSAA National prepared and provided the Standing Committee with a submission on our views about what conditions should be placed on organisations that are currently registered and those wanting to be.

The emphasis of our submission focused on activities undertaken by organisations currently listed on the Register and the extent to which these actions involve on-ground environmental works. We made comment on two specific Terms of Reference, the first being the requirements to be met by an organisation to be listed on the Register and maintain its listing, and the second concentrating on activities undertaken by bodies currently on the Register and the extent to which these involve on-ground environmental works.

In regard to the first Term of Reference, SSAA National expressed that it should be a requirement that an organisation can only be approved if the purpose/s of the organisation display evidence to suggest that it will primarily be involved in or support practical ‘on-ground’ environmental work projects in Australia. We suggested that an 80/20 rule could be established to ensure that 80 per cent of donations be used for and to support on-ground environmental work projects. Any shift by an organisation from the above requirement should trigger the Register to consider removing that body from the REO.

In regard to the second Term of Reference, SSAA National believes that on-ground environmental work should be the priority and the primary focus of listed organisations. On-ground environmental work should include activities that protect, restore and conserve the natural environment and engage with academic institutions and researchers to fill knowledge gaps in wildlife ecology and management.

Organisations that are primarily set up as political advocacy groups should not be on the Register. Those that use only a small percentage of donated funds for on-ground works and primarily engage in ideological political campaigns, instead of real hands-on environmental work, should be removed. We and the general public would expect donations to any so-called ‘environmental organisation’ on the Register to be predominantly used for and to support on-ground environmental projects.

Some so-called environmental organisations appear to be in the business of environmental advocacy and activism. Such bodies are more about creating employment opportunities for environmental activists to participate in political campaigning (often in regard to animal rights and extreme green ideologies) than to focus funding towards on-ground environmental works to achieve positive conservation benefits. As such, these types of organisations should be excluded from the Register.

On September 1, SSAA National was called to appear before a public hearing as part of the inquiry into the Register of Environmental Organisations. We took this opportunity to reiterate our opinion that on-ground environmental work should be the focus of REO organisations and if it is not, then they should not expect to be entitled to or receive a taxpayer handout.

For many years, SSAA state and territory branches and members have committed time and money to a variety of environmental activities. As an organisation, we are not-for-profit and we do not seek or receive any tax concessions for our environmental work. We believe the time has come for the government to purge those organisations from the Register that are clearly not focused on actual on-ground environmental work. Green activism should be funded from the Greenies’ own pockets and not from those of Australian taxpayers.

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