Climate group ‘charity’ question

The blockade starts.THE climate groupthat organised an anti-coal blockade of Newcastle harbour last yearis being investigated by the federal government’s charity regulator.
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The deputy chief executive of Australia, Glen Klatovsky, told the Newcastle Heraldon Sunday that the organisation was being investigated under the Charities Act for allegedly “engaging in, or promoting, activities that are unlawful or contrary to public policy”.

Mr Klatovsky said Australia was contacted in September 2016 by the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission over the May 8, 2016, event, in which 2000 people gathered on Horseshoe Beach and in the harbour as a protest to “break free from fossil fuels”.

Read more: How blockadedNewcastle harbour

There were no arrests on the harbour but more than 50 people were detained by police after a protest on the coal rail lines at Sandgate.

Mr Klatovsky said the commission was trying to ascertain whether was “promoting unlawful activity” in its role as protest organiser.

“Our goal was to be part of a global set of actions on climate change using the rights of Australian citizens to protest,” Mr Klatovsky said. “We didn’t tell people ‘while you are here, go and get arrested’.”

He said the organisation also denied “advocating for a particular political candidate”. Hesaid had asked whether there had been a complaint made against it but had not received an answer for the commission.

“Many of usfeel that following similar attacks on similar groupsin Canada and the UK, that what we are seeing here is an attempt to silence civil society voices,” Mr Klatovsky said.

Fairfax Media’s Australian Financial Review reported on Thursday that the organisation had emailed supporters saying the probe was costing “thousands of dollars in legal fees’.

“We need to make a stand against these attacks on charities by the federal government, the Minerals Council of Australia and the fossil fuel industry,” the email said.

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