Tax deductions help fund both sides of reef campaign

LOBBYISTS on both sides of the political debate over the Great Barrier Reef were grilled about funding sources and "misrepresenting facts" during a parliamentary inquiry hearing in Brisbane on Tuesday.

The Australian Marine Conservation Society and the Queensland Resources Council were among the organisations to give evidence at a heated hearing of the House of Representatives inquiry into the Register of Environmental Organisations.

The government-led inquiry followed calls from the mining industry for an investigation into registered green groups and their political activity.

The inquiry is examining the tax deductibility of groups on the register and whether organisations are meeting the standards required.

QRC chief Michael Roche said some groups were misrepresenting the facts about the reef and taking part in "illegal activity", and those involved should not be allowed to receive deductions on donations.

Although mining companies could claim their QRC membership fees as a tax deduction, Mr Roche rejected suggestions the mining lobby, similar to environmental groups, was "effectively taxpayer funded" due to the deductions.

The LNP's Member for Dawson, George Christensen, also grilled AMCS reef campaigner Felicity Wishart about the marine environmental group's recent advertising campaigns.

Mr Christensen asked whether the society's advertisements were "misleading the public", Ms Wishart pointed to the dangers the reef was facing from a proposed port expansion at Abbot Point.

AMCS chief Darren Kind-leysides, under questioning about the group's advocacy role, said most major government decisions on the environment had only come about due to advocacy.

More inquiry hearings are scheduled this month, but no date has yet been set for a report to parliament.



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