"Here is a win for the farmers"

Aussie Farms charity status revoked

Politics
Aa

The national charity regulator, the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC), has revoked the charity status of Aussie Farms Inc following an investigation.

Aa
Dorrigo dairy farmers Julie and Michael Moore were among hundreds of farmers who have been listed on the Aussie Farms interactive

Dorrigo dairy farmers Julie and Michael Moore were among hundreds of farmers who have been listed on the Aussie Farms interactive

"It's a win for farmers" is how Dorrigo dairy farmer Julie Moore described today's scrapping of the charity status of Aussie Farms Inc by the national charity regulator.

The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) revoked the charity status of the activist group following an investigation.

Aussie Farms created a website and Facebook page in January targeting producers across the country with a map of farm locations published on Facebook.

Mrs Moore and her husband Michael were among hundreds of farmers listed on the Aussie Farms (aussiefarms.org.au) interactive map, which detailed the location of farming operations from pigs to eggs, fish, dairy and beef to racecourses, abattoirs, greyhound tracks and even zoos.

In January, The Land verified that someone walked 44 steps from the Moore's front gate to take photographs of their Dorrigo dairy which they uploaded online.

Related reading:

Aussie Farms charitable status under fire

Farmers call on police for advice

When the Aussie Farms website went live with farmers' details, Australian Community Media, which includes The Land and Queensland Country Life, launched the campaign #protectourfarms to force government to grant stronger protections from extreme activists in the wake of the social media storm around the release of farmers' personal details.

The campaign called for the government to revoke the charity status of Aussie Farms, strengthen farmer's priovacy protections and increase penalties for trespass.

Related reading:

Join our campaign and protect our farmers

In July, at its annual conference NSW Farmers established its own right to farm taskforce to ensure its response to farm invasions was comprehensive.

Farm animal vigilantes were put on notice with fines of up to $220,000 under new trespass laws in NSW, which came into effect in from August 1.

Related reading:

Farm animal vigilantes put on notice - fines of up to $220,000

Mrs Moore, at Dorrigo, said it was the news farmers were waiting to hear.

"Woohoo, my persistence has paid off," Mrs Moore said.

"This is such good news.

"Since January I have knocked on the doors of every politician at every opportunity and finally we here is a win for farmers."

Mrs Moore said she still had to get the photos removed from the website of her property.

NSW Farmers' president James Jackson echoed Mrs Moore's sentiments saying he was delighted with the ACNC's decision.

"As a registered charity it has not fulfilled its aims as a charity," Mr Jackson said.

"Breaching biosecurity and invading farms certainly does not constitute as charitable activity.

"It's a good move and one less thing for farmers to worry about in this drought and bushfire crisis."

Aussie Farms was registered by the ACNC effective January 1, 2018, with the purpose of preventing or relieving the suffering of animals.

The investigation into the charity was completed on November 18, 2019, with the decision to revoke charity status effective from that date.

Revocation of charity status takes away the organisation's Commonwealth charity tax concessions, including income tax exemption, fringe benefits tax rebates and goods and services tax concessions. The revocation appears on the ACNC Charity Register record for Aussie Farms Inc.

ACNC Commissioner, Dr Gary Johns, said revocation of charity status was reserved for the most serious of cases.

"Charities must stick to their purpose, and maintain their obligations under the ACNC Act, Charities Act and adhere to Governance Standards," Dr Johns said.

In his Commissioner's column on January 24, 2019, the ACNC Commissioner acknowledged media reports relating to Aussie Farms Inc, and although unable to comment on specific issues, reassured the public that the ACNC takes all concerns about registered charities seriously and will investigate and take compliance action as appropriate.

"In taking compliance and enforcement action, the ACNC follows its Regulatory Approach Statement to ensure that matters are investigated properly, the appropriate compliance action is taken, and our regulatory action is proportionate to the problems we seek to address," Dr Johns said.

"Where we decide to take compliance action, the affected charity has rights of review and appeal, including through external forums such as the AAT, and therefore we must also ensure that we follow proper decision-making principles. We aim to complete investigations as efficiently as possible, whilst ensuring that our processes are robust and fair."

Although the revocation is reflected on the register, the ACNC is prevented from publishing the findings from investigations, or the nature of the concerns, due to secrecy provisions in the ACNC Act.

"By revoking the charity registration of Aussie Farms Inc, the organisation is no longer able to access Commonwealth charity tax concessions," Dr Johnd said.

"Revocation of charity status is the most serious action the ACNC can take."

Aussie Farms reacts, appeal to be lodged

Melbourne-based animal activist Christopher Delforce said Aussie Farms had not been notified.

"We have received no contact from the ACNC around this," he said.

"It seems extremely suspicious that an animal agriculture industry publication would be notified of such a thing before us.

"If it is indeed the case we will of course be appealing it, on the basis that it was clearly not a decision made independently by the ACNC, but instead under the heavy influence of the very industry our organisation has exposed extreme and at times illegal cruelty within, which I believe warrants a review of the ACNC's ability to operate independently," he said

Aa

From the front page

Sponsored by