Senate debates

Thursday, 25 November 2021


Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission; Consideration

4:45 pm

Photo of Matthew CanavanMatthew Canavan (Queensland, Liberal National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

While speaking to the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission report for 2019-20 I take this opportunity today to express the importance of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission. It does important work in this country to establish trust in charities. Many Australians donate to charities, and they want to know that they can trust that those charities are working in a way that progresses our national interests.

Unfortunately, this afternoon we saw a spectacle in the Senate where the Australian Labor Party teamed up once again with the Australian Greens to back charities that are more interested in breaking the law and stopping people's jobs rather than actually support law-abiding charities in this country. There is no doubt that there are charities out there that routinely break our laws. We've seen a number of them over the past decade. We had Greenpeace here in Canberra destroy a genetically modified wheat crop. They remain on the charities list despite that law breaking. They often threaten to do it again by trespassing on property.

We saw a few months ago the extinction rebellion movement spray painting this very building. Admittedly it isn't an organisation that's on the charity list but it is definitely supported and waved on by charities. What did they get away with? The ACT Magistrates Court gave them a $20 fine. You get thousands of dollars of fines for not wearing your mask, but you get only a $20 fine in this country if you spray paint our national parliament. What a joke. It is a joke that the Australian Labor Party have lined up with today. Those are their friends.

I have a good mate in Rockhampton, Robert Schwarten. He is a member of the Labor Party. He was the member for Rockhampton. He is a good man, who is often despondent about where the modern Labor Party has gone. He has a piece in the Courier-Mail today. He says: 'It's all good. We've rediscovered coal. We support coal jobs now. Matt Canavan has no platform anymore.' Robert Schwarten was undermined down here in Canberra because within hours of him saying that the Labor Party now support labourers—they have discovered labourers—the Labor Party teamed up with the Australian Greens once again to put the jobs of labourers at risk and to side with the lawbreakers of this country. That's what the Labor Party are for these days. They are for those people who like to break the law. The profession of some of these charities is just breaking the law. They're supported and facilitated by willing participants from the Australian Labor Party.

My message to those Australians who are working hard for this nation, earning a wage and turning up for work every day is: don't put your faith in the Australian Labor Party. They're not going to back your job. They're not going to support you. They're always going to back the Australian Greens, because that's how they get a job. The Australian Labor Party get their jobs through the Green preferences and the backroom deals with the Greens. They don't care about your job; they only care about their jobs.

We're seeing an uptick in all of this lawbreaking activity. We have had green activist groups tie themselves to coal loaders and trains over the past week in Newcastle, showing gross contempt for the laws of this country and disrupting the exports that fund our nation and help us get through this pandemic. These are the people the Australian Labor Party are siding up to. We know that superglue sales are about to go through the roof. In the lead-up to the election Bunnings is going to do a great trade in superglue because all of these Greta Thunberg followers are going to be supergluing themselves to the streets, disrupting our cities and stopping law-abiding people getting to work. The Labor Party have just armed them. By voting against these laws that would have cracked down on this activity the Labor Party have effectively just given them truckloads of superglue to disrupt this country and our nation. That's what the Labor Party have done today, and it's an absolute disgrace.

If you are a party that wants to be the government of this nation and that wants to establish the laws of this nation, you should be supporting those groups that back our laws and live by our laws and be opposed to those groups who break our laws. It's a pretty simple principle. It's a principle the Australian Labor Party have not lived up to today, showing that they are not a party that is ready for government, because they are still engaged in the juvenile activities of a university campus, running around with these activists who show no regard for the hardworking men and women of this nation. I thought the Australian Labor Party might have learnt their lesson, but they clearly have not. Actions speak a lot louder than words, and today the Labor Party, in action, have teamed up with the Greens.

4:50 pm

Photo of Nick McKimNick McKim (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I also rise to take note of the ACNC report that Senator Canavan was just speaking to. There we have it. One of the biggest shills for the fossil fuel companies that this parliament has ever seen has just laid his cards firmly on the table. He's been very clear. He's going to back in the big planet-cooking fossil fuel corporations, the big destroyers of nature, over and above ordinary Australians who, in ever-increasing numbers, are taking matters into their own hands and bravely standing up for genuine climate action and to protect nature from those very companies that Senator Canavan is in here to represent.

I salute the activists around this country that the government is taking on and trying to quash. I thank them because they are bravely putting their bodies and, in many cases, their liberty on the line not for themselves but for their children, for their grandchildren and for the large numbers of people—mostly in the global south, overwhelmingly, black- or brown-skinned and, overwhelmingly, poor—who are going to pay the highest price as our climate breaks down around us. So, whether they be activists around the country or activists around the world, I stand here—and I know I do that on behalf of my colleagues in the Greens—and say thank you for your bravery, your passion, your commitment and your foresight.

I can't mention those words without reflecting on a feisty and optimistic little NGO from my home state of Tasmania: the Bob Brown Foundation. Again, we see activists—people who work with, and are associated with, the Bob Brown Foundation, including the board of that foundation, and Bob himself, a former senator and former Leader of the Australian Greens—who optimistically and in the most feisty and passionate of ways are defending nature in Tasmania and, in particular, that glorious, beautiful place, takayna/Tarkine, which is rich in Aboriginal cultural heritage and rich in biodiversity and which is scenic, spectacular and diverse. They are defending that beautiful part of Tasmania against the ravages of the mining and the logging industries. What are they facing when they do that? They are facing state and Commonwealth governments who are attacking them at an organisation level by trying to change their tax deductibility status and who are also—in cahoots, I might add, with the corporations whose profits they are trying to defend—attacking the very activists by writing legislation that puts in place mandatory sentencing laws and other draconian provisions that are designed to curtail people's right to speak out in what is supposedly a liberal democracy.

This, of course, is what happens when political parties like the LNP and the ALP are in the pockets of the big corporations—those corporations that invest what is, for them, a pittance but which is, in fact, many millions of dollars a year in political donations to each of those parties. And boy—ka-ching!—does it pay off. It's the big jackpot! They get approvals for their coalmines. They get public subsidies for extracting, transporting and burning fossil fuels. They get public subsidies—for example, like in my home state of Tasmania and Senator Rice's home state of Victoria—for strip mining our native forests and destroying hundreds and thousands and, at times, millions of creatures in the process, not to mention the massive carbon emissions that they're delivering into our atmosphere as a result of those processes.

I warn colleagues that the social compact is beginning to fracture, not just in this country but around the world. Governments, Labor and Liberal, can sit down with the big corporations and draft all the draconian laws that they like but they will find that over time the jails just are not big enough to hold all the brave activists who, in ever-increasing numbers, will undoubtedly put themselves at risk in order to try to stop the devastation of nature and the breakdown of our climate. I thank all of them.

4:55 pm

Photo of Tim AyresTim Ayres (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

In a short departure from my temporary role as acting whip: I observed in the chamber the other day that the government and the Greens need each other. They feed off each other. Their political business model is to engage in this sort of rhetoric—

Photo of Concetta Fierravanti-WellsConcetta Fierravanti-Wells (NSW, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Sorry to interrupt, Senator Ayres, but are you meaning to take note of the same document, No. 2?

Photo of Tim AyresTim Ayres (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I am, thank you. And thank you for helping me to get this right, procedurally—

Photo of Concetta Fierravanti-WellsConcetta Fierravanti-Wells (NSW, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

We're waiting, Senator McKim!

Photo of Tim AyresTim Ayres (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

And no two people embody that more than Senator Canavan and Senator McKim. The truth is that playing around on the margins as a political business model and shouting at each other may work to garner the very small proportion of the vote that these characters require to continue their existence in this place, but Australians are sick of it. If they want action on climate change, if they want to reindustrialise our regions and if they want to build industrial capabilities in—

Photo of Concetta Fierravanti-WellsConcetta Fierravanti-Wells (NSW, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Rice, a point of order?

Photo of Janet RiceJanet Rice (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I fail to see how Senator Ayres's contribution is relevant to considering the report for 2019-20 of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission.

Photo of Concetta Fierravanti-WellsConcetta Fierravanti-Wells (NSW, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Ayres, yes; I'm listening attentively.

Photo of Tim AyresTim Ayres (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

If Senator McKim's contribution was relevant then I reckon mine is!

Photo of Concetta Fierravanti-WellsConcetta Fierravanti-Wells (NSW, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I think this debate allows a degree of flexibility, Senator Ayres, but I really would like to hear your views on the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission report. That would be edifying for the debate.

Photo of Tim AyresTim Ayres (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I think it would be a great contribution to charity if we stopped this debate. It probably shouldn't have started. But I will just point out in closing that if people are serious about these questions then the vote that happened today was actually a victory for the independence of Australian charities. It's a pity that Senator McKim and Senator Canavan wanted to divert the discussion into the usual thing, and that's a symbol of why people are sick of this carry-on. If they want jobs, serious action on climate change, re-industrialisation of our economies and lower power prices then they know what to do at the next election. I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.