A Labor government will restore Commonwealth government funding to the West End Environmental Defenders Office, ensuring they can continue to carry out their important work following devastating cuts inflicted by the Liberal-National government.
EDOs provide free legal services with a specific expertise in environmental law. They have helped farmers, Indigenous people and community groups bring forward important legal challenges with the aim of protecting Australia’s precious natural environment. They provide access to justice to individuals and groups who wish to take on large organisations with deep pockets, ensuring Australia’s environmental laws are upheld.
West End EDO will receive a share of a $14 million package for the eight EDOs across Australia unveiled today by Labor.
The ability of EDOs to continue doing their important work was brought into real doubt when the Abbott government cut off all Commonwealth government funding in 2013, making claims about “activist lawfare” which were never justified.
EDOs were established in 1985, and were funded by successive Commonwealth governments – including the Howard government. But thanks to the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government’s ideological obsession with climate change denial and its close ties with big business, all Commonwealth funding was cruelly terminated within a few months of Tony Abbott taking office.
Thanks to donations, community support and some state government funding, EDOs have managed to survive – but only just. A Labor government will ensure their ongoing existence is secure.
Labor recognises that Australians are becoming increasingly concerned about the destruction of our natural environment under the Liberal-National government. Properly-funded EDOs can make sure the environment has a voice in the courts, assisting all kinds of Australians to protect their natural surroundings. That includes farmers, who make up a significant proportion of EDO clients.
Labor’s commitment to legal assistance services goes beyond just EDOs. We believe, as a matter of principle, that access to justice is one of the most important parts of our democracy. The rule of law does not just apply to some, it applies to all – and the ability to enforce rights in court should not only be available to those with the deepest pockets.
Labor’s announcement today shows how highly we value the protection of our precious environment. EDOs have an important role to play, and we will ensure they can continue to provide their services to communities around Australia, including in our regions.
MONDAY, 25 MARCH 2019