Animal activist group Aussie Farms has accused the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) of being corrupted by “business interests” after having its charity status revoked.
The group was responsible for several animal rights protests across Australia and has an interactive website that claims to list alleged “animal exploitation facilities”.
These actions drew the ire of farmers, who felt they were targeted.
The revocation came in the form of a statement on the industry regulator’s website and a story in industry publication The Land.
The ACNC did not go into the details of why it removed Aussie Farms’ charity status but said the group would no longer be able to access Commonwealth charity tax concessions, including income tax exemption, fringe benefits tax rebates and goods and services tax concessions.
ACNC Commissioner Gary Johns said revocation of charity status was reserved for the most serious of cases.
“Charities must stick to their purpose, and maintain their obligations under the ACNC Act, Charities Act and adhere to governance standards,” Dr Johns said.
Aussie Farms hit back in a statement of its own, accusing the regulator of a lack of independence.
“We find it both extremely disappointing and concerning to have learned of this from an animal agriculture publication, rather than from the ACNC themselves, and that the publication in question received advance notice of this decision last week,” Aussie Farms executive director Chris Delforce told the ABC, referring to where the story broke.
“To us, this strongly suggests that this has not been a decision made independently by the ACNC, but instead under the heavy influence of the very industry within which our charity has exposed extreme and at times illegal animal cruelty.
“This influence is also evident in previous communication sent to us by the ACNC earlier in the year.”
Mr Delforce went on to call for a review of the ACNC’s actions.
“We will be calling for an immediate review of the ACNC’s ability to operate independently and without corruption by business interests, as it is extremely inappropriate for decisions about charities to be made by third parties with a financial stake in their revocation,” he said.
The decision by the ACNC to revoke Aussie Farms’ charity status was welcomed by farmers and the National Farmers’ Federation, who tweeted their happiness at the decision.
“Aussie Farms has finally been stripped of its charity status! It follows official complaints by us and hundreds of our members and supporters. Thank you to everyone who stood with us to oppose their behaviour!” The tweet read.
Aussie Farms has finally been stripped of its charity status! It follows official complaints by us and hundreds of our members and supporters. Thank you to everyone who stood with us to oppose their behaviour! 🙏#agchatoz #ausag #auspol pic.twitter.com/aBL0dI4rgP
— National Farmers' Federation (@NationalFarmers) November 18, 2019
Victorian cafe owner John Gommans, who was forced to close his business after animal activists entered his property, also welcomed the decision.
“I think that’s absolutely wonderful news, and it’s the first step in the battle to have the site taken down and removed,” Mr Gommans told the ABC.
Mr Gommans had been targeted by Aussie Farms in a September 3 Facebook post about his Trafalgar goat farm.
Aussie Farms was registered by the ACNC from January 1, 2018, with the intent of preventing or relieving suffering of animals.
Mr Delforce’s mother, Julie, was stood down from her role at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade last week, ahead of an external investigation into potential links to activist websites.