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Senate Inquiry report recommends Commonwealth Government establish new funding agreements for EDOs

24 June, 2015

The Senate Inquiry into the Abbott Government's attacks on the environment reported yesterday with recommendations to reinstate funding for EDOs.

The committee acknowledged the vitally important role of EDOs and noted concern that, without EDOs, communities and individuals across Australia would not be able to access legal assistance or legal advice on matters that directly affect their local environment.

"The environment is a public good and those who seek to protect it should not have to rely on the donations or indeed crowd-funding", noted the committee.

The committee acknowledged the fact that EDOs play a significant role in providing access to justice where it is in the public interest for environmental matters to be pursued by those who cannot afford private legal representation.

"By providing this important legal assistance, the EDOs serve to reduce frivolous litigation by taking very few matters to court", the committee said.

The committee noted the finding of the Productivity Commission that, "in the past five years, no cases in which the EDOs were engaged were dismissed on the grounds that they were frivolous or vexatious".

"The reasons given by the government for the defunding of the primary avenue communities have to access environmental legal aid are not compelling, particularly as there appears to have been no analysis by the Attorney-General's Department on the environmental and social impact of the defunding", said the committee.

"Further, no analysis has been undertaken on the impact the defunding will have on the court system, as the EDOs have acted as a filter for frivolous or vexatious litigation".

While acknowledging the financial constraints faced by the Commonwealth government, the committee considered that the long-term cost to communities and to the environment would far outweigh the short-term financial gains achieved by the EDOs defunding.

Read the report at Chapter 3, here.

Environmental Defenders Office Queensland (EDO Qld) gives a strong legal voice to the environment when needed most.

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