Taxpayer-Funded Sock Puppets

It is a public policy no-brainer that taxpayer-funded statutory entities shouldn't use our tax dollars to engage in political activism and lobbying. After all, if they were to do so, then it would - quite literally - be a case of the government lobbying itself, and using our money to do this!

This is why, as part of our overall campaign against taxpayer funded activism, I was disturbed to learn of the continued and unashamed political activism of Zoos Victoria. I was recently at a function with a representative from Zoos Victoria who proudly boasted about how their new model focussing on "community conservation" is all about manipulating people who visit their zoos, or view their websites, to engage in political activism, contact their MP's, etc.

To me, this is not on. Zoos Victoria is a statutory body that receives millions of dollars in our taxes. They do a lot of good work - but it is morally and ethically unjust for them to use our money for political activism.

One example of this is their' "Don't Palm Us Off" campaign, a big-money media and advertising campaign essentially calling for a boycott of palm oil. This campaign was exposed in the IPA's 2010 report: Exposed: The Inaccurate and Inappropriate Campaign by Zoos Victoria Zoos Victoria’s abuse of taxpayer’s dollars on an anti-palm oil political campaign and is misguided for a number of reasons:  Impartial conservation experts agree that, due to palm oil having a yield averaging more than six times per hectare any other oil thereby needing less space to meet growing food needs, it is the best chance we have of ensuring production while minimising deforestation. Nutritionists point out the vitamin-A rich content on palm oil, and how it is free of transfats. From a developmental perspective, it has raised millions of Indonesian and Malaysians out of poverty, and I shudder to think at the national security implications if we were to force them all out of a job.

The thing is though, even if you disagree with me, and support the left's anti palm oil campaign, you shouldn't be forcing the taxpayer to pay for it. Private citizens should be free to engage in any sort of activism they desire, no matter how misguided it is (we live in a free country after all) and I thoroughly support the right of activists to be wrong. The question is about the use of tax dollars: our taxes should never be used for political activism.

Last week, I wrote to the Victorian Minister for the Environment asking him to look into this matter. You can read the letter here: (Page 1, page 2).

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