Attila the Pun
Wednesday, June 02, 2004
The insidious silencing of evidence

Why does it not surprise me that Kenneth Davidson a) hates the Howard government and B) luurves non-government organisations (NGO's)?

He is such a fan, he claims they are "an essential part of the democratic process". However, "the ability of these groups to provide independent advice is now also under attack from the Howard Government."

How you say? By Costello's (seemingly withdrawn) threat to remove the tax deductability of organisations that engage in advocacy work. Further, he states that the Board of Taxation has threatened to revoke the charity status of any organisation where the advocacy role is dominant.

Davidson is basing a lot of his article on a report by The Australia Institute. He doesn't refer to the AI as 'left leaning' or 'left wing', however later on when referring to the Institute of Public Affair, he calls the IPA a 'right-wing think tank'.

It is no secret that the IPA is not a huge fan of NGO's, and I am with them all the way. NGO's are wildly undemocratic, and claim to represent on behalf of people when they have no right to do so.

People like Davidson seem to like NGO's when they are singing from the same songbook - e.g. Greepeace, ACOSS etc. But there is nothing to stop me setting up an NGO and claiming to speak on behalf of almost any group I choose.

An interesting example is the Australian Family Association. This christian group is trotted out for a quote every time there is an 'immoral' act on TV. Most of us are members of a family, so do they speak on our behalf? Hell no.

Same with the Public Transport Users Association, whose spokesperson also gets a guernsey every time something happens with PT. I catch PT on a daily basis, so do they represent my views? Not usually.

So why are the views of ACOSS taken as gospel in relation to the poor? (the head of ACOSS once amusingly referred to the 'welfare sector' of the economy) Why are Greenpeace and the Australian Conservation Foundation given such prominence on environmental issues?

As for revoking their charity status, tax exemption status and tax deductability, I don't think that can come soon enough. Why should a lobby group - left wing, right wing, religious, environmental - be granted tax free status?

If they are a charity, which by definition should mean engaged in charitable work, then they should receive tax free status. If they are lobby group, then they should pay tax like any other oganisation.

Quoting the AI report, Davidson says "NGOs are still fearful there will be a crackdown on their charitable status if they continue to engage in advocacy work."


Dear Attila,

Thanks for picking up on KD, and that non-denominational think tank the Australia Institute. They just can't help themselves, can they?

People like KD always bleat about an 'independent' public service within the assumed scenario of a leftwing PS opposing a conservative government. If Labor were in government (God forbid) and some PS mandarin were opposing one of their loony schemes (the kind KD is always floating in his column), would he be congratulating them on their 'independence'? No, he'd be screaming about 'obstructionism'.


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