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Greenpeace – working for others.

Written By: - Date published: 3:02 pm, September 4th, 2012 - 13 comments
Categories: campaigning, Environment, law, political alternatives, Politics, the praiseworthy and the pitiful - Tags: , ,

Today Greenpeace will be in the Court of Appeal to challenge the interpretation of the High Court or what is a charitable purpose.  Bunny McDiarmid at the Greenpeace blog  has a pretty good post on it “Charity or not, Greenpeace is here to stay“.

This month another principle is at stake. We’re in the Court of Appeal challenging the decision to decline Greenpeace charitable status under the ‘new’ Charities law passed in 2005. Central to this is free speech, or a so-called ‘political exception’ which stops charities from engaging in what the government may think is political advocacy, or challenging the status quo.

Whether we are successful or not in gaining charitable status, Greenpeace will continue to work in the same manner as we always have. Backed by nearly 60,000 kiwis, we will remain strictly non-party political, staunchly independent and we will continue fighting non-violently for good environmental outcomes and peace with every means at our disposal.

I was thinking this through as a diversion after a long and unproductive session session contemplating how inept the Labour caucus has been. It was rather pleasant to look at an organisation that had a clear vision, bloody good communications, was competent, and above all actually appeared to care about what they stand for.  So I dug around a bit looking at what a charity is.

The  compliance FAQ for charities is quite clear. This link starts from the legal background and has a link to the definitions of “charitable purpose” which explains some of the legal interpretations that evolved from the Elizabethan law. But the kicker for this case is in the sidelink “Political activities and registration under the Charities Act

Many charitable entities registered by the Charities Commission undertake political activities in order to achieve their charitable purposes. As long as the organisation’s main purposes remain charitable, the use of political activities to achieve these purposes is unlikely to disqualify the organisation from registration.

The Commission acknowledges the valuable contribution that charitable entities can make to public debates – for example, a charitable entity may be the only organisation to represent the needs of a group of disadvantaged people. In addition, it is clear that the input of charitable entities may be able to resolve recurring problems in their particular fields.

The Commission understands that charitable entities may be more likely to undertake political activities at certain times. For example, entities may undertake more political activities in an election year or if Parliament is considering, or is about to consider, a piece of legislation which relates to the entity’s operations.

The Commission is only likely to question whether a charitable entity is continuing to meet registration requirements if its political activities have assumed a level of importance that appears to indicate that they have become independent purposes in themselves. In these circumstances, the Commission will inform the charitable entity that no longer appears to have exclusively charitable purposes.

Back to the Bunny.

In the eyes of the law Greenpeace’s environmental purposes are judged to be charitable as they benefit the community, as does our promotion of peace, but promoting disarmament is not. It is deemed to be too political.

Now that is a really arbitrary line that is being drawn. Advocating for peace is a valid charitable purpose, but advocating for removing arms for the purposes of peace is not? WTF..

Under the new charity law you can do some political ‘advocacy’ work in the form of promoting or challenging environmental policies or laws. However, too much advocacy, will be risky, particularly if it is critical of the status quo. But how much is too much is not clear. This creates a dilemma for some charities because if they overstep this indistinct line, they risk losing government funding linked to their charitable status.

Greenpeace does not seek or accept money from the Government (or business) so nothing will change for us in that respect, but the potential effect on debate for those that do, is a real and chilling possibility.

We want to see New Zealand more in line with Australia which allows charities freedom of expression in political debate as long as it is consistent with their charitable purposes. We reckon that the Aussies are right; engaging in political debate is an essential part of advocacy work, it’s very much in the public interest and an essential part of a modern democracy.

I agree. Time to shift the law so it allows that to happen.

What is pleasant is an organisation willing to take the expense to take a case to appeal and in all likelihood to a further appeal to the Supreme Court to establish a legal precedent that is more important to the myriads of smaller charities out there than to them. These range from activist groups like us (not that we really need a charity status for our trust), churches, poverty groups, through to people who advocate against Greenpeace like some of the climate change deniers.

And no. I don’t exert effort or even funds supporting them. Lyn does. I might have to join her.

13 comments on “Greenpeace – working for others. ”

  1. BernyD 1

    So they get retrospectively taxed because they stepped on toes.
    Just another stick to threaten people with.

  2. Blue 2

    No they get retrospectively taxed because they are a Multinational Corporate Giant making millions. No different to any other, except they wear a charitable facade.

    • lprent 2.1

      Apart from GST and other sales taxes – how does a non-profit organisation get taxed? If you don’t make a profit then you don’t get taxed on the profit.

      Still a pathetic dickhead I see – even after your long break…

      • Fortran 2.1.1

        The ability to “Not make a profit” is not difficult at all.
        As a not for profit organisation no proper audits are necessary.
        Have you never heard of Head Office expenses overseas – the Aussie Banks all do it as a way to reduce their whatever liabilities in New Zealand.
        Of every dollar give to Greenpeace a fixed portion (40% I think) is automatically channeled offshore.
        I have asked often for a copy of the accounts, before subscribing, and have been told there are none available.

        • lprent 2.1.1.1

          As a not for profit organisation no proper audits are necessary.

          Complete and utter bullshit. I’ve done work around a number of medium to large not-for-profit’s at various times as well as a few smaller ones especially when I was doing system support decades ago. Their accounting practices are more pedantic and nit-picky than most of the for-profit’s for the obvious reason that they’re usually a damn sight shorter on reliable income and they are directly accountable to the regulatory body that gives them whatever status they have. I’ve often worked with their auditors and helped when they have had the IRD or charities commission or even WINZ or the lotteries board peering at their transactions.

          Head Office expenses

          Which is still not a “profit”. If a organisation is using services from another part of the same organisation like their management, computers, lawyers, accountants, funds, etc then they are usually expected to pay for those services as expenses.

          The legislation, IRD, auditors, stakeholders, various accountants, and lawyers set what is permissible to expense to parent organisations based on actual usage of resources regardless of what type of organisation it is. There are whole frigging areas of accounting and law devoted to the topic of allocating overhead expenses.

          Profit is what is made AFTER expenses.

          There is a particular area that you are probably straining towards is that the NZ Greenpeace will be contributing towards campaigns that are run outside of NZ like the rainbow warrior and the like. Well duh! That is what they are set up to do. The purposes of any organisation especially trusts and charities are set in their charters or other binding documents. If you want to know what they are not permitted to do, then read them, some of the law binding the organisation, whatever the IRD and/or other regulatory bodies state they must do, and whatever documents that they are required to make public.

          Or even better in this case just read the greenpeace website which is pretty clear about what they do. I can’t be arsed to look up the link – it is kind of hard to miss.

          I suspect you have bugger all idea what in the hell goes on at the accounting levels of ANY organisation. Moreover I suspect that like the many of the supremely confident but terminally ignorant you are projecting what you’d like to happen legally rather than what is actually set down in law. Rather than exerting effort to find out, you make inane comments so people who do make the effort educate you.

          A lazy wishful thinking fool in other words…

          Typically at this point I’ll hear some whining about how nasty I am.. 😈 But I really like putting the effort in to make the lesson stick. It is fun for me…

    • mike e 2.2

      Yeah right Blue its just a bullying tactic to silence a very big thorn in the side of big corporates and their pathetic little trolling yes men who can only follow and never lead except when theirs money in it.

  3. ghostwhowalksnz 3

    Arent they a ‘non profit’ ? So I dont think they pay tax on ‘profits’ anyway.

    IRD : A non-profit organisation is any society, association or organisation (incorporated or not):
    that is not carried on for the profit or gain of any member, and whose rules do not allow money, property or any other benefit to be distributed to any of its members.

    The Charity status is all about getting donations from supporters to be tax deductible for the donor.

    A little bit of honesty about the real purposes of the court appeal wouldnt go astray ?

    And this from IRD is interesting.
    “However, if a charity runs a business, it may not be liable for income tax on any profits that it uses for charitable purposes within New Zealand.”

    • lprent 3.1

      I didn’t put it in the post however the post (and press release) state this at the base

      NOTE: GREENPEACE has not lost its donee status which allows our supporters to make tax deductable donations. The IRD determines if organisations meet the test for donee status while the Department of Internal Affairs determines which organisations meet the criteria for charitable status.

      • ghostwhowalksnz 3.1.1

        So they want to get tax free profits from their businesses then. There doesnt seem to be a point to the expensive court battle ?

  4. fnjckg 4

    Wow! a multitude of mesmerizing articles in todays Standard
    (faster broadband, faster faster)

  5. xtasy 5

    How bizarre – “The Elizabethan Statute” or what it is called.

    So promoting religion and public prayer qualifies?

    Greenpeace are clearly advancing education by informing about environmental issues and dangers, and they are wanting to protect the environment, which is beneficial to the community. They are also not politically aligned, nor do they put a political agenda forward, as they do not bind themselved to any party or political organisation.

    As much as many churches and other religions organisations may offer charitable services, some also are good at getting money out of members, like the Mormons do with their 10 per cent tithing, which partly goes into advancing their church and building more churches, propagating their interpretation of religion and sending out missionaries to “convert” more.

    Yet that is accepted as a “charitable” organisation, as the register tells me.

    It sounds more like legalistic hair splitting, to create more problems for Greenpeace, as the government and they “system” it upholds consider them a “thorn in their side”.

    Maybe just start “prayer meetings” before and after activities? Bang, “charitable purpose”, and you should likely “qualify”.

  6. captain hook 6

    so far greenpeace is the only organisation that sticks up for the trees and the whales while the rest of the world indulges itself in a frenzy of external referencing by psychological comparisons of the size of its car to the size of its dick.
    greenpeace needs every penny to combat the destruction of the planet by pinheads.

  7. lprent 7

    As a side issue. We’re getting some greenpeace banners coming through. I approved them the other day which is why I was poking around the greenpeace site yesterday. And I see that they are there this morning.

    They are freebies ads filling otherwise unused advert space.

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