Why does a “charity” that promotes criminal behaviour still enjoy tax-deductible status?
Early on May 29, Greenpeace activists illegally trespassed at the Port of Newcastle with police arresting 16 people. The Greenpeace activists unlawfully entered into an enclosed area and placed huge white letters over a black coal stockpile as it read ‘CommBank’s coal kills’. Those arrested are scheduled to appear in court in this month.
A statement by NSW Mining said “Today Greenpeace activists have put themselves and others in danger by illegally trespassing at the Port of Newcastle. Those responsible have also wasted the time and resources of Police and Emergency Services.”
This is not the first time that the actions of Greenpeace have contravened the law and it calls into question their eligibility for the Deductible Gift Recipient status. Their actions were illegal and dangerous. Their criminal behaviour warrants the federal government to remove the special tax treatment they receive.
Greenpeace have DGR status, which means the donations they receive are tax deductible. Tax-deductible donations should not be used to raise funds that promote illegal activities that have been consistently carried out by Greenpeace activists. The intention for the special tax treatment is to support charities that are genuinely promoting activities that benefit the community, and is not to be exploited by the professional activists that encourage illegal and dangerous practices.
Clearly, although there are legislative frameworks that provide provisions for a charity to be deregistered or to have their DGR status revoked if it engages in criminal activity, these mechanisms are not being enforced. Illegal and criminal activities should and must result in a charity to lose its charity and DGR status.
There is evidently a recurring behaviour within Greenpeace where they have on multiple occasions promoted the criminal behaviour by members of their organisation. In 2011, Greenpeace activists illegally broke into a CSIRO experimental farm in Ginninderra and destroyed a crop of genetically modified plants on Crown land. This blatant act of trespass, damage and destruction of property by two individuals who were convicted on the charge of intentionally destroying Commonwealth property had occurred while they were both employees of Greenpeace Australia Pacific Limited.
During the trial in the Supreme Court of the ACT, Justice Penfold explained that the destruction of the crop was publicised by the individual and Greenpeace when they “conducted interviews for ABC Radio and Television” and “Greenpeace released a statements on its official website about the removal of what it called the ‘controversial crop’, quoting [the two accused].” This is a clear admission that Greenpeace had celebrated the illegal activities and the criminal behaviour of their employees.
An inquiry into the Register of Environmental Organisation in 2016by a federal parliamentary found that numerous stakeholders have expressed their concerns about environmental DGRs who are engaging in unsafe protest activity and protests that are designed to interfere with commercial operations. Once again, these concerns have been validated with the antics of Greenpeace last month.
In a submission to the inquiry, even the NSW Police Force referenced the nuisance and waste of time and resources of police and emergency services as they deal with the interference from the obstructions, trespass and malicious damage. Ports Australia also submitted that the protest activity has involved serious risk to the safety of employees, volunteers and other members of the community.
The committee heard evidence of environmental DGRs who were soliciting tax-deductible donations so that they were able to pay off fines and penalties for their criminal actions. There should not be special tax treatments so organisations can pay their fines when they intentionally break the law.
This pattern of unlawful activity clearly indicates that Greenpeace is not meeting the governance standards set out by the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission. The community expects that charitable organisations to not engage in any illegal or criminal behaviour but to be trusted by the community as law-abiding citizens and organisations.
The Committee recommended additional administrative sanctions which included the revocation of DGR status that should apply to environmental groups that support, promote or endorse illegal or unlawful activity undertaken by employees, members or volunteers. The integrity and public expectation for charities should be maintained, the recurring criminal behaviour by Greenpeace should be kept to account and they should be punished for repeatedly promoting their unlawful activities and criminal behaviour.
Brendon Zhu is a Research Associate at the Australian Taxpayers' Alliance
[This article first appeared in The Spectator Australia]