Last week the Productivity Commission recommended that the Federal Government reverse the decision to end of all funding to EDOs.
It has almost been one year since the Federal Attorney-General George Brandis announced the end of all federal funding to the Environmental Defenders Offices (EDOs) around Australia.
Without warning or prior consultation this withdrawal of funding amounted to $10 million over four years.
Last week the Productivity Commission recommended the Federal Government reverse this decision.
The Productivity Commission is the Australian Government's independent research and advisory body providing independent research and advice on economic, social and environmental issues affecting the welfare of Australians.
The Commission report on Access to Justice Arrangements (p711-13), released 3rd December 2014 said: “The Commission considers that there are strong grounds for the legal assistance sector to receive funding to undertake strategic advocacy, law reform and public interest litigation including in relation to environmental matters.
“Irrespective of the Australian Government’s ultimate position on whether strategic advocacy and law reform should attract government funding, the Commission considers that some restoration of funding is appropriate.”
Without EDOs the majority of Australians would be unable to afford to take legal action to protect the environment, clean air and water.
As the Commission noted: “The rationales for government support for environmental matters are well recognised. The impact of activities or actions that cause environmental harm typically extend beyond a single individual to the broader community. For example, inappropriate developments by governments or the private sector that reduce air quality, water quality or the amenity of an area can impose costs on all residents in that area. Costs might include poor health outcomes or decreased land values”.
EDOs provide legal advice to thousands of individuals and community groups each year. They have run landmark court cases against new coal mines, pollution of rivers by power stations and over development in residential areas. EDOs also do high level policy and law reform work at both the State and Federal level.