Monday, 20 May 2024

The Labor Government’s $8.3 million grant to the Environmental Defenders Office is looking even more scandalous after a review into the organisation’s use of Commonwealth funding in the Barossa gas pipeline case was quietly released on Thursday night.

The findings of the report recommend that ‘additional assurances’ must be implemented and variations of the agreement negotiated to ensure that the EDO complies with ‘relevant professional legal standards’.

The report proves the case made by the Coalition for 18 months that the decision to grant public funding to the EDO was not only a mistake, but also that not enough parameters were in place to protect taxpayers from misconduct. Its release also follows the Coalition’s recent announcement that a Dutton Government would de-fund the EDO.

Shadow Environment Minister Jonno Duniam is in disbelief that the Federal Government continued to fund the EDO with such weak guidelines while it was under the cloud of a Federal Government review:

“It is completely inappropriate for the Labor Government to plough millions more of taxpayers’ money into the EDO while it was being reviewed over a breach in its grant guidelines.”

“At the very least, any grant that the Labor Party gave to an organisation that uses environmental lawfare to try to disrupt and stop economy-building projects should have required them to comply with professional legal standards. This should have been the very first condition of such funding.”

“That they didn’t breach the guidelines when Justice Charlesworth herself stated that EDO representatives fabricated evidence, coached witnesses, and lied to numerous Tiwi Islanders, is an extraordinary pointer to the many flaws of this funding arrangement.”

Shadow Resources Minister Susan McDonald:

“This decision is not surprising given the narrow scope the Minister gave to investigators, but if the EDO has been found not to have breached guidelines, then the Government is either running a protection racket or has set the guidelines so low in the first place that they are implicitly endorsing the bad EDO’s bad behaviour.”

“This decision will only embolden the EDO to continue coaching witnesses, confect evidence and recruit complainants with tenuous links to resources developments.”

“At a time when investment confidence in Australia is slumping, we need more certainty around approvals processes, not more rein for activists to hold companies to ransom in the courts.”

Shadow Minister for Indigenous Affairs Jacinta Nampijinpa Price:

“This review is no exoneration of the EDO. The implication is that the exploitation of Traditional Owners is what the EDO should be doing. Rather than apologising and cutting the EDO’s funding, the Minster is washing her hands with an inadequate review that does not even include any evidence that Traditional Owners were included.”