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Tuesday, 17 February 1987
Page: 208


Mr DOWNER(10.43) —Thank you, Madam Speaker. I recognise your contribution to the concept of fair play. I want tonight to say something about a really substantial tax rort which has been perpetrated by one of Australia's so-called greenie groups. The Australian Conservation Foundation is the group to which I refer. The Australian Conservation Foundation is laundering funds for radical, left wing peace groups and fringe organisations by being the conduit through which donations to this group are made tax deductible.


Mr Hodgman —Laundering?


Mr DOWNER —It is indeed laundering money. This is a straight out rort of the tax system and an abuse of the status of the ACF as a recognised charity under the Income Tax Assessment Act. Contributions to the Foundation have long been tax deductible to encourage Australians to support its task of environmental protection. That policy existed under the Fraser Government as well as the present Government. However, it is quite outrageous that this recognised charitable status should be abused in the way the present management of the Australian Conservation Foundation is abusing it.

Groups which are benefiting from this rort include the Campaign Against Nuclear Energy, which was one of the main groups responsible for the highly unpopular and at times violent Roxby Downs pickets which cost the taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars in overtime for the police. The Movement Against Uranium Mining, Friends of the Earth, the Peace Publications Co-operative and the major political group, People for Nuclear Disarmament, are other beneficiaries of this rort. Direct contributions to these groups are not tax deductible, yet the ACF is getting around this through the operation of its so-called preference grants scheme. Under this scheme, the ACF tells donors to express a preference that their donations be used towards a grant for another organisation. It then tells donors to make cheques payable to the ACF and to send those cheques to the Foundation. In turn, the ACF makes grants to the so-called approved organisations-they are approved, of course, by the management of the ACF-and those grants are made from the general funds of the ACF. So blatant is this rort that the ACF has specific pro forma circulars it sends out, which state:

I prefer that this donation should be spent for the purposes of-

The donor inserts the name of the organisation to which the money is to go. It continues:

I understand that this donation is tax deductible and therefore look forward to your receipt.


Mr Hodgman —That is tax cheating.


Mr DOWNER —This is an absolutely disgraceful example of, as the honourable member for Denison says, tax cheating. Taxpayers would be disgusted to learn that they are, in effect, subsidising the activities of groups which are opposed to the Western alliance and which are trying to halt the development of Australia's uranium resources at a time when Australia's balance of payments deficit is sending us broke. This blatant abuse of the spirit of the Income Tax Assessment Act must cease forthwith and the ACF should immediately publish details of those groups which have benefited from this rort. The Treasurer (Mr Keating) should also set up a full investigation with a view to stripping the ACF of its tax deductible status, particularly bearing in mind that the ACF is a very significant beneficiary of government grants.

This story, which I have now revealed for the first time to this House, is really one of the truly great scandals which the taxpayers will soon hear about. It is an example of the hard working, investigative Waste Watch Committee digging up and getting to the bottom of the sorts of things that this Government is allowing to pass by. More than that, the ACF is an organisation which this Government is very generously subsidising with taxpayers' money. The Government says that it supports the United States of America alliance and the Western alliance, yet it is allowing taxpayers' money to be spent with the view to undermining that alliance. The Government says that it will allow the Roxby Downs uranium mine to go ahead in my State of South Australia, yet it is using taxpayers' money to undermine the existence of that very beneficial project to my State. This is a blatant abuse of taxpayers' money. Taxpayers need to know about how this is happening, particularly now when they are crying out for tax relief.