Environmental Defenders Office Review Stitch Up For Political Allies

Written by:
17 May 2024
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“Australians can have no confidence in the review ordered by the federal environment minister into the grubby tactics of the Environmental Defenders Office. It is nothing more than a stitch up to protect the government’s political allies,” said Daniel Wild, Deputy Executive Director of the Institute of Public Affairs.

In November 2023, the Federal Court granted a last-minute injunction to the Environmental Defenders Office, who were seeking to halt the construction of a pipeline required for the Barossa Gas Project. The EDO fortunately lost its case in January.

Justice Natalie Charlesworth, slammed the EDO’s lawyers in her judgement, stating that they had engaged in “a form of subtle witness coaching”, had presented evidence that was so lacking in integrity that no weight can be placed on them”, and was caught out “distorting and misrepresenting what the Indigenous informant had said.”

Last night, the review conducted by the minister’s own Department of Climate Change, Energy, the Environment and Water, found the EDO were not in breach of its grant agreement.

“The fact the minister’s own department handled the review is a clear indication the fix was in from the start. It seems the federal government is willing to turn a blind eye to unethical lawfare if it suits its political agenda,” said Mr Wild.

“If any other Australian engaged in this behaviour they would rightly be stripped of government funding, but the activists continue to receive rivers of gold from taxpayers’ funds.”

In the EDO’s 2023 Annual Report, The Hon Alan Wilson KC said:

“…it is essential that lawyers retain a proper measure of objectivity and clear-sightedness about their cases; to do otherwise puts proper, fair and independent advice at risk, and does nobody any good in the long run. It’s not fair to clients to raise hopes inappropriately, or fail to give realistic advice, or run pointless proceedings.”

“By its own behaviour as described by Justice Charlesworth, the EDO has not even lived up to its own standards,” said Mr Wild.

“The review confirms the federal government is happy for taxpayer funds to be given to an organisation which a court has found engages in witness coaching and other highly unethical legal practices. What is clear is the EDO now gets to play by a different set of rules to everyone else.”

In August 2022, the IPA warned the federal government’s net zero legislation will unleash a torrent of legal activism by green groups.

“This is a prime example of how the federal government protects economic vandals, who wish to cancel vital industries we rely on for our energy, jobs, food, and vital tax and royalties, which get invested into critical infrastructure such as schools, roads, and hospitals,” said Mr Wild.

“Under the current federal government, it is clear activists now have a green light to wreak economic havoc from coast-to-coast.”

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