Green group ‘Activism’ concerns drive inquiry

POSSIBLE illegal activity and "political activism" by green groups were two key issues that led to the creation of an inquiry into environmental organisations, documents released in Senate estimates show.

In submissions, green groups have argued political advocacy was part of their role, backed by a 2010 High Court precedent, while the mining industry has argued for stripping some groups of their deductible gift recipient status.

Correspondence released by Environment Minister Greg Hunt showed House Environment Committee chairman Alex Hawke asked him to refer the inquiry after "concerning discussions" with other MPs "surrounding this serious issue".

The letters showed Mr Hawke's concern was raised after "significant coverage around the deductible gift recipient status of environmental groups who misuse their privileged position to fund illegal activities and engage in political activism".

A spokesman for Mr Hunt said he proposed releasing the letters after the Greens made "false claims" he proposed the inquiry, not the committee.

He said the inquiry was formally accepted "in proper parliamentary form and practice".

Mr Hunt did not want to pre-empt the inquiry by commenting on the issues being examined.

Mr Hunt wrote the inquiry's purpose was to ensure the act was administered in "best practice" and that the Register of Environmental Organisations was focused on "supporting communities to take practical action to improve the environment".