Australian public support environmental advocacy

The mining and forestry lobby campaign to remove tax-deductibility for certain non-for-profit organisations they deem contrary to their business interests, does not have the support of the Australian public, according to new polling.

Hearings are ongoing in the Government’s inquiry into the administration, transparency and effectiveness of the Register of Environmental Organisations.

Many Coalition politicians and mining lobby groups say the public expects tax-deductible donations to be banned for environmental advocacy. But the Australia Institute commissioned national polling of 1,408 people, which found:

  • Most Australians support tax-deductible donations to a wide range of advocacy activities, including:
    • advocacy to change environmental policy (68 per cent),
    • environmental campaigning (68 per cent) and
    • legal cases to uphold existing environmental law (55 per cent).
  • Only 27 per cent said environment groups had too much influence in public debates, while 34 per cent said they had not enough influence.
  • By contrast, most people said big business (62 per cent) and mining companies (58 per cent) had too much influence.

“Most Australians support tax-deductible donations to environmental advocacy. BHP & Rio Tinto should take note, Executive Director of The Australia Institute, Ben Oquist said.

“Advocacy, whether on behalf vulnerable children, indigenous communities, veterans or the environment is an essential part of our democracy. This was a key part of a 2010 High Court decision on non-profit advocacy. Our report finds the Australian public support tax deductions for a broad range of activities beyond any narrow definition of ‘on ground activities’.

In June, The Australia Institute, in their submission to the inquiry pointed out that the mining industry had spent more than $340 million on lobbying in the last 5 years. Those expenses were tax deductible.

“6 in 10 Australians are concerned big business and mining companies have too much influence. However, the Coalition, from opposition, encouraged them to become “political activists” and “fight” government policy. Former PM Tony Abbott even called on business to “stand up” to help the government remove “obstacles” for the Adani coal mine, such as protections of federal environmental law.”

“There’s a tremendous irony here: on the one hand, the government is arguing to silence environmental ‘activists’, while on the other hand he wants industry lobbyists – whose fees are also tax deductable — to become activists,” Oquist said.

Figure 1 – Tax deductions on donations to groups engaged in what activities?

Polling donations activities

Figure 2 – How would you describe their role in public debates?

Polling role in public debates

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anna@australiainstitute.org.au