Dutton commits to defunding Environmental Defenders Office under Coalition government

Dutton commits to defunding Environmental Defenders Office under Coalition government
  • PublishedJanuary 30, 2024

The EDO is an environmental legal centre which runs litigation and offers legal support in climate change and environment cases.

Federal funding to the non-government organisation was cut by former prime minister Tony Abbott in 2013 but reinstated by the Albanese government when it came into power.

The government committed to providing $8.2 million to the EDO over four years, with the rest of its revenue received from state and territory governments or philanthropy.

But the EDO has recently worn criticism for its conduct in court, after federal Justice Natalie Charlesworth ruling the group had confected evidence and coached witnesses in its legal challenge of a Santos gas project in the Timor Sea.

In the wake of that case, Mr Dutton vowed to revive the Abbott-era cuts if the Coalition won government.

“They have obviously been discredited in a recent federal court case but the federal government has had nothing to say about it,” Mr Dutton told resources groups in West Australia this morning.

“The same activists are now seeking to use the courts to thwart Woodside’s $16.5 billion Scarborough offshore gas field project here in WA.

“It does stymie existing projects and it does stop new endeavours from taking off.

“We think it needs to be defunded.”

Mr Dutton’s commitment follows a pledge by the LNP in Queensland to pull state funding for the EDO if it wins election, and calls from former WA Liberal premier Colin Barnett for the group to be abolished altogether.

On Tuesday, EDO chief executive David Morris wrote to supporters acknowledging the court had been critical of “some aspects of the handling of the case”, and said the office was treating that with the utmost seriousness.

“We are reviewing the judgment carefully but as the matter remains before the court, we are limited in making further comment,” Mr Morris wrote.

“While this decision was devastating for EDO’s clients and deeply disappointing for EDO and supporters like you, our determination to continue providing public interest legal services to communities across the continent is unwavering.

“We provide these services in circumstances where, were it not for EDO, access to environmental justice in Australia would be seriously diminished.”


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