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Liberals promise to deny funds to Environmental Defenders Office

Peter Dutton

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has committed to stripping the Environmental Defenders Office of all Commonwealth funding should he win the next election. The EDO, which again began receiving money from Labor last year after a 10-year funding drought initiated by the Abbott government, recently lost a case brought by the North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) against the Commonwealth of Australia and the State of NSW with its lawyers arguing that the RFA should not have been renewed without assessment and approval under federal environment laws. Source: Timberbiz

And it lost a landmark case against Santos’s $5.3bn Barossa LNG project, with claims the company’s proposed 262km pipeline off the Northern Territory would cause irreparable damage to First Nations people and their sites being rejected.

In that case Federal Court Judge Natalie Charlesworth offered a stinging critique of the claims put forward by the EDO, saying that she had “drawn conclusions about the lack of integrity in some aspects of the cultural mapping exercise, which undermined my confidence in the whole of it”.

Mr Dutton, speaking at a Chamber of Minerals and Energy event in Perth, said the EDO’s conduct in the case discredited the non-government organisation and it should be defunded as a result.

He said a Coalition government would not allow activists to hold sway over Australia’s industries and economy.

And on Monday, Northern Territory chief minister Eva Lawler confirmed she had tasked her environment minister with taking a closer look at its $100,00-a-year contract with the EDO.

Shadow Minister for the Environment, Fisheries and Forestry Jonno Duniam welcomed the Leader of the Opposition Peter Dutton’s announcement.

“The Albanese Government should never have given the EDO $8.3 million. The only thing that the EDO has done is frustrated our courts and brought important projects to a standstill,” he said.

“It is beyond belief that the Albanese Government has undermined Government environmental approvals processes by funding an organisation that appeals these decisions.

“The environmental lawfare the EDO has engaged in needs to be called out. Industry partners need to have confidence that they won’t drown in green and red tape when they invest in Australia. But the Albanese Government has instead sent a clear message to partners that they should look elsewhere,” he said.

“Labor has not held the EDO accountable for its inexcusable conduct in the Barossa court case and needs to do so.”

Shadow Minister for Resources, Senator Susan McDonald said the EDO’s lack of integrity was exposed when Justice Charlesworth slammed it for its conduct in the Barossa court case, highlighting confected evidence and cases of witness coaching.

“The Labor Government should not be funding ideological activist organisations to bring forward vexatious claims and launch actions against the government’s own regulator, just to secure votes in inner-city seats under threat from the Greens political party,” she said.

“It is time the EDO comes clean and tells the Australian people whether the funding used to attack our vital energy projects was taxpayer money or whether it comes from unnamed foreign donors.”