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Bans, Gags, Funding Cuts: Desperate Measures from a Desperate Government

A week can hardly go by lately without a new attack on environmental justice in Australia. The latest threat comes from Andrew Nikolic, Federal Member for the Tasmanian seat of Bass.

The Liberal MP has moved to strip charity status from environmental groups, who he perceives as a threat to Tasmanian prosperity i.e. the Tasmanian logging industry.  The motion was unanimously endorsed by his party at their Federal Council meeting.

Some 13 groups would be impacted by the motion, no longer eligible to receive tax deductible donations.  This includes prominent organisations like the Wilderness Society, the Australian Conservation Foundation and all state EDOs.

Nikolic has described these environmental groups as engaging in political activism and illegal activities, and doesn’t believe that taxpayers should be subsidising their green agenda, which he believes is damaging the Tasmanian economy.

“I moved the motion because I think the activities of these groups has been enormously damaging on our state of Tasmania, I think we’ve seen for far too long these groups undertaking activities like boot camps and engaging in political activism, illegal activism.

This is the latest in a string of desperate attempts by Tasmanian Liberal politicians to rein in the power of conservation groups in the state.

Last week, anti-protest laws were passed in Tasmania’s Lower House, aimed at stopping forestry activists through large fines and jail time.  And you might remember Senator Richard Colbeck’s tried-and-failed-and-tried-again attempts to introduce legislation banning secondary boycotts, a powerful protest measure which so successfully brought the mighty Gunns pulp mill to its knees.

The battle for the Tassie wilderness has been long fought, most recently with Abbott’s unprecedented attempts to delist 74,000 hectares of Tasmania’s heritage listed forests.  The self-proclaimed ‘conservationist’ (don’t you mean conservative, Tony?) stated,

“We have quite enough national parks. We have quite enough locked up forests already. In fact, in an important respect, we have too much locked up forest.”  

It took UNESCO a mere 10 minutes to reject this ludicrous proposal, calling the bid ‘feeble’.

In light of UNESCO’s recent decision, the conservative lobby is growing increasingly concerned.  And it’s not just the Tasmanian Liberal Party who are worried.

The growth of the grassroots environmental movement in Australia has ushered in a new era of environmental protest.  Online campaigning has made large, crowd-funded legal actions possible, while social media has engaged and mobilised people to take part in blockades and protests.

Recent victories against the destructive resources sector have resonated among Australians with the defeat of CSG at Bentley, a coal export facility at Keppel Bay and an open-cut mine in Leard State Forest.  Two crowd funded legal actions against the government over their plans to industrialise the Great Barrier Reef has drawn international attention, and criticism.

In moves some have called fascist, the government is trying to silence its critics by cutting their funding and attempting to discredit our scientific institutions.  But gagging environmental groups serves only to galvanise the communities who live on the front line, who see first hand the destruction caused to their land, their water, their future.

Communities across Australia are responding to the call to action, putting their time, money and bodies on the line – and winning.

You can follow Kate on Twitter @kateokate

Also by Kate O’Callaghan:

Pokie-Tourism: Campbell Newman’s Dream for our Tropical North

Abbott’s International Tour de Farce

Abbott is the Most Moderate Prime Minister In the History of Australia.

 

At first it was easy. Bernardi, Joyce and Pyne have always been a satirist’s dream. You just have to repeat what they’re saying and most people laugh and tell you that you have a marvelous control of irony. And since his election, Abbott has made himself look even more ridiculous than that trio – which, I think you’ll agree – is an impressive achievement.

Going from “elect us for a strong economy” to “what do job losses have to do with us” in the space of a few months ranks with George W. telling us that the French didn’t have a word for “entrepreneur”. But then, we had Scott Morrison’s “Well, what do you expect when people leave the safety of the compound?” changing to “Sorry he didn’t leave the compound, but we’ll have a full inquiry into this and no, I’m not answering questions, I never answer questions because that just helps people smugglers. And look, Steven offended the General so let’s talk about that, because a man’s death pales into insignificance when compared to a general being offended by accusations that he’s helping us cover things up.”

But I must confess, lately I’ve lost my spark. Every time, I start to write something that I hope will rival Swift’s “A Moderate Proposal”# and Abbott comes out with something even more “moderate”.

Today, I started to read something and I thought, “Yeah, that’s the sort of satire I wish I could write”, but then I realised that it quoting an actual news item, and that Abbott really did say:  “When I look out tonight at an audience of people who work with timber, who work in forests, I don’t see people who are environmental vandals; I see people who are the ultimate conservationists” just a few minutes after saying, “Why should we lock up as some sort of World Heritage sanctuary country that has been logged, degraded or planted for timber?”

But I suppose that we don’t want forests locked up? It sounds like the thing you do to unionists and protesters. “Free the forests” has a catchy ring to it. Rather like “liberating” workers from their boring factory jobs. And in some cases they’ll be liberated from their mortgages too. I can see a similar campaign for people in nursing homes.

But still at least we know that he’s a “feminist” because of his daughters. He said so on International Women’s Day when he announced that all the glass ceilings had been broken. Governor-General, Prime Minister and now we had his chief of staff running the entire country. So, there’s no problem any more. Feminists have won, so why are they still complaining.

Yes, Tony’s daughters turned him into a feminist like my son turned me into an incredibly fit man. He’d prefer that I was, so that means I am, right?

#A Modest Proposal for Preventing the Children of Poor People From Being a Burthen to Their Parents or Country, and for Making Them Beneficial to the Publick,[1] commonly referred to as A Modest Proposal, is a Juvenalian satirical essay written and published anonymously by Jonathan Swift in 1729. Swift suggests that the impoverished Irish might ease their economic troubles by selling their children as food for rich gentlemen and ladies.[2] This satirical hyperbole mocks heartless attitudes towards the poor, as well as Irish policy in general.

In English writing, the phrase “a modest proposal” is now conventionally an allusion to this style of straight-faced satire.

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