It’s not just our very own Hillary, Liberal Senator Brett Mason and a
few other lonely souls of the right complaining about the tax status of environmental groups – and how it gets abused.

Greg Barns had a few words to say on the subject when he phoned into Tim Cox’s program on ABC Radio in Tasmania this morning.

A pro forestry rally – expected to be one of the biggest marches seen
in Tasmania for many years – is being held in Launceston today to greet Iron Mark when he arrives for his shrubhugging tour.

Greens Senator Bob Brown claimed yesterday taxpayers’ money is being used to bolster the rally’s numbers.

Isn’t it used to help his friends, too? Over to Barns:

COX: I have had a call from Greg Barns. Don’t hear from Barnsy very often. Where are you Greg?

BARNS: Good morning, Coxsie

COX: How are you?

BARNS: I’m well. Well I did see you on Saturday night, very enjoyable function.

COX: Didn’t get to chat to you at all.

BARNS: I know, well you know, that Governor wants to talk to me; I
don’t know what it is – now listen. I thought I would give you a call.

COX: What did you make of his speech, by the way?

BARNS: I thought it was a terrific speech. I thought it
was a good
speech and he made some very telling points about modern journalism and
the short attention span of the media these days. I thought it was
terrific.

COX: So what were you saying?

BARNS: Oh look, just going to make a couple of points which I’ll be
addressing further in my Mercury column next week and that is that an
by the way, your previous caller – isn’t it nice to hear someone
talking science rather than emotion in this debate, which has been my plea as you know.

COX: It’s very difficult Greg.


BARNS
: It is very difficult for science and I thought that as
children of the enlightenment we ought to be informed by science and
not ridiculous emotion. The point I wanted to make quickly was
the hypocrisy of the Wilderness Society in complaining about people
being paid to attend a rally – the hypocrisy is this. This is an
organisation, which has continually abused its taxpayer funded tax
deductibility status. It is the only organisation I know in the
so-called charity sector that gets away with handing out how to vote
cards at the Queensland State Election recently, that gets away with
playing politics and gets away with running you know it’s multimillion
dollar marketing business out of Salamanca Place and
around Australia. Let me tell you, in the refugee movement we
don’t get tax deductibility because we’re seen to be a political
organisation, as in the Australian Republican Movement – quite right.

The Wilderness Society on the other hand – and this has been pointed
out by someone who is no friend of mine but Senator Brett Mason, a
Liberal Senator from Queensland – has got away with an enormous amount
of abuse of its tax-deductible status. I mean, the Salvation Army,
Amnesty, all these other groups that you make tax deductible
donations to do not abuse their privilege by organising mass rallies
and playing politics and I think it’s about time that Geoff Law and the
Wilderness Society were taken to task by the ATO and by the Australian
Government.


COX
: It’s interesting that, and I, well you know I am not taking
sides of what you are saying Greg, that organisations like the
Australia Tibet Council have lost their tax deductibility status.


BARNS
: Yeah and rightly so and as I say, we have A Just Australia, the
peak refugee group in Australia, we do not have tax deductibility. We
still get our donations from people but we make
it clear that it’s not tax deductible. Fair enough. Our
main purpose is to change government policy. Well what do you think the
Wilderness Society’s main purpose is? To change government policy. It
is a disgrace, it is an abuse, they have been abusing it for years
but again it’s pretty typical of the hypocrisy show by Mr Law and
others on this debate and it makes me angry that they have been able to
abuse tax payers money over a number of years while they run their, as
I say, their multi-million dollar business downstairs from me here in
Salamanca Place.

Peter Fray

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