The Greens have a holier-than-thou approach to political donations but
Hillary Bray has identified a few issues around their own funding.


Hillary Bray

When is the truth about the environmental movement and political fundraising going to get out?

Crikey types know that the Greens are about the implementation
of a hard-left social and economic agenda under the guise of concern
about the environment.

The proof? The way their notional
leader, Bob Brown, got slapped down by the party’s peak assembly a
couple of years ago when he dared suggest that spending on the
environment was more important than keeping Telstra in government hands.

Lots of well-meaning and otherwise intelligent voters, however, seem to have a mental block with this.

They just can’t acknowledge it.

The same goes for Greens fundraising.

There’s
been a dull murmuring around Canberra for some time now about the pious
noises the Greens make about donations – and the money they get from
overseas and from organisations that claim they’re charities, not
bagmen for political parties.

Then there’s the issue of
what we could call “The Greengeld” – the various consultancies that
businesses undertaking what environmentalists decide are “sensitive”
projects are forced to pay for, and the links, financial and otherwise,
that these consultants have with the Green parties.

Boilermaker
Bill and yours truly have referred to this – in detail – on the site
and in sealed sections and copped plenty of abuse.

Just
like the otherwise intelligent voters who haven’t wised up to the
Greens’ full agenda, it seems that there are even Crikey types who
refuse to accept that the party aren’t the fundraising lilywhites they
claim to be.

Still, constant dripping wears the stone; use your mentality, wake up to reality – or whatever.

There’s a smell here – and the sooner whatever’s causing it is dragged into the open the better.

Which brings us to a speech Queensland Liberal Senator Brett Mason made on just this very topic on Monday night.

Yes,
we know. The Liberal Party launders donations through various
foundations – but they’re less hypocritical about it than, say, Kerry
Nettle was in Estimates recently.

Mason was particularly
interested in the role “charities” play in netting the dollars
environmental groups use for their political campaigns.

He outlined the privileges they enjoy:

“Charities
are exempted from income tax, they can get refunds on imputation
credits, they can reduce their fringe benefits tax and they can obtain
various GST concessions. Last but not least, the gifts and donations
they receive from the pubic are tax-deductible, which of course helps
in fundraising. But with these benefits come obligations. For instance,
a charity has to refrain from political advocacy, unless such lobbying
activity is merely incidental to the charitable purpose. Our approach
is very much in line with countries such as the United States and Great
Britain.”

And he outlined how these can get abused:

“There
is nothing wrong with groups and organisations in the community
engaging in the political process-lobbying and campaigning. The only
question is why such groups and organisations should get the tax breaks
to help them do so. If the aim is to effect political change, shouldn’t
these charity workers actually join political parties, where the
maximum tax deductible threshold is $150? Or, conversely, if lobbying
should have tax benefits for charities, then why not for everyone else
as well? If it is okay for koalas and the homeless, why isn’t it for
sugar farmers?”

Outlined very specifically. The most recent
example of the abuse of these privileges, Mason said, came from his own
state of Queensland:

“At the Queensland state election, on
7 February this year, in the marginal seat of Indooroopilly, Wilderness
Society members and supporters handed out their how-to-vote cards.
Their card, titled ‘Vote to end land clearing’, recommended that voters
vote one for the Greens candidate and vote two for the sitting Labor
member. In contrast, the official Greens party’s how-to-vote card only
instructed voters to vote one for the Green candidate, leaving it up to
the voters how to distribute preferences if at all. This was consistent
with the Greens’ decision not to give their second preference to the
sitting member because of some of his policy stances with which the
Green party disagreed.

“The situation is reminiscent of the
1995 Queensland state election, where the Australian Conservation
Foundation, the Wilderness Society and the Rainforest Preservation
Society teamed up with the Queensland union movement to hand out
alternative green how-to-vote cards to circumvent the fact that the
Greens had decided not to preference the then Goss Labor government
after a community backlash following its controversial South-East
Tollway plan. The Wilderness Society did not breach electoral law, but
has it abused its tax privileged status? The Wilderness Society is not
a charity per se; it is what is called a registered environmental
organisation. It possesses a tax deductible status in exchange for
satisfying certain conditions contained in Department of Environment
guidelines. One such requirement is that the organisation’s principal
purpose must be:

‘… the protection and enhancement of
the natural environment… or…the provision of information or
education, or the carrying on of research, about the natural
environment …’.

“Did the Wilderness Society breach the
guidelines by engaging in such blatant political activity? This is an
important question that needs to be answered, particularly since what
happened in Indooroopilly early last month is far from an isolated
incident.”

Here we go, kids:

“The Wilderness
Society has been actively involved in other elections around Australia
for quite some time. I can only quote the boast from the society’s own
web site, referring to the 1998 Queensland state election campaign
where the Wilderness Society ran an extensive campaign in eight
marginal seats. The web site says:

‘The effect of the [The
Wilderness Society] campaign was to hold up Green and Democrat votes in
key seats, ensure that Green and Democrat voters’ preferences flowed
more strongly to the ALP and away from Conservative candidates, and
ensure preference exhaustion by Green and Democrat voters was reduced
on the 1995 result. These effects were demonstrated in analysis showing
that the Wilderness Society campaign helped to boost the Green and
Democrat preference flow to Labor in our target seats by at least two
per cent’

“The boast continues:

‘Another effect
was to move Liberal voters concerned with the environment directly or
through preferences to Labor. This was one factor that impacted on the
Liberals in Brisbane.’

“Does this sound like using the tax deductibility status for ‘the protection and enhancement of the natural environment’?”

Uh-uh, Senator. No way!

Only a PDF of the whole day’s Hansard was up when we last looked, so if you want to see the entire speech you’ll need to go to http://www.aph.gov.au/hansard/senate/dailys/ds010304.pdf and flick through to Page 98.

And
if you don’t want to wade through all the Hansard, relax. We’ll be
keeping an eye on this issue – not matter who likes it or not.

Abuse, shrubhuggers, can go to [email protected]

Peter Fray

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