Australian Government Revokes Critic's Tax Status

A watchdog group that criticized the social and environmental failings of the Australian government's overseas aid policies has been stripped of its charitable tax status. The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) informed Aid/Watch that it had lost it tax-deductible gift status because it was "trying to procure changes in Australia's aid and development programs." The ATO took exception to Aid/Watch urging supporters to write to the government to put pressure on the Burmese military dictatorship, and raising concerns about the Australia-United States Free Trade Agreement. Dr Clive Hamilton, the Executive Director of The Australia Institute and co-editor of the book Silencing Dissent, believes the decision is also aimed at curtailing advocacy groups' election year campaigns. "A very clear message is being sent, especially in the lead-up to the next election, that the Government will crack down on non-government organisations it doesn't like," he said.