QUEENSLAND Nationals Senator, Barnaby Joyce, has questioned Greenpeace’s fundraising rights, saying environmental groups that destroy public property should not be entitled to receive taxpayer concessions.
The QLD Senator was commenting after ACT Police announced last week that summonses would be issued for two Sydney women to face the ACT Magistrates Court, on charges relating to the destruction last month of CSIRO genetically modified (GM) wheat field trials in Canberra.
ACT Police executed a search warrant on Greenpeace headquarters in Sydney shortly after the mid-July incident, during which the Australian Federal Police seized evidence.
Senator Joyce said Greenpeace currently benefited from a government ruling allowing the organisation to receive tax deductible donations under the Register of Environmental Organisations program.
But he said that eligibility needed questioning.
"I find it a bit of a paradox that an organisation can get a tax deduction, in the same way that St. Vincent de Paul or the Red Cross does, when it has been implicated in charges relating to the destruction of taxpayer property," he said.
"Taxpayers should not fund the destruction of taxpayers’ property.
"If Greenpeace is found to be implicated in the destruction of scientific research, then they should no longer receive the benefit of a tax deduction from the Australian people."
However, Greenpeace spokesperson, James Lorenz, said it was disappointing the Nationals Senator’s first priority was persecution rather than protection.
"Today, international biotech corporations have the right to sue Australian farmers for patent infringement even if their crops have been contaminated," he said.
"GM crops have a long history of contamination and this threat is heightened with the looming commercialisation of patented GM wheat.
"Greenpeace is calling on Senator Joyce to support farmer protection legislation which would protect Australia's farmers from GM contamination."
Scientists and farm groups in Australia and abroad recently expressed concerns that activists are deliberately spreading anti-GM fears to the general public, to assist fundraising efforts.
The WA based Pastoralists and Graziers’ Association (PGA) said it fully endorsed Senator Joyce’s questioning of Greenpeace’s tax exemption.
PGA Western Graingrowers chairman, John Snooke, said grain producers were also taxpayers.
"It is ironic and disappointing that important public research being conducted by CSIRO and funded by taxpayers was destroyed because Greenpeace has a gripe against a proven safe, internationally respected breeding technique," he said.
"The unlawful sabotage and destruction of public property by Greenpeace was a political stunt."