Tony Abbott, Coalition Cut Environmental Defenders Offices Budget; Move Slammed as 'Barbaric'

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By Reissa Su | December 19, 2013 3:16 PM EST

Australia's network of legal centres is not happy with the Coalition government and Prime Minister Tony Abbott's decision to cut funding for the Environmental Defenders Offices (EDO). Mr Abbott cut EDO's $10 million worth of funds, which means the offices will not receive money from the government after July 1, 2014.

The EDO provides legal representation for environment-related cases. Many EDO lawyers have provided their expertise in a string of environmental cases. This includes advising the Lock the Gate campaign and preventing logging in Leadbetter's possum habitat.

The Minerals Council, which represents the mining industry in Australia, has accused the EDOs of economic sabotage.

Victorian EDO chief executive Brendan Sydes said he received a call from the department of the Commonwealth Attorney-General and was informed that EDO funding will be "terminated immediately."

The EDOs stand to receive $350,000 every year for the next two years with the amount equivalent to its funding.

The EDO budget cut comes only a week before Christmas which left communities and staff uncertain of their future. Mr Sydes said the news is a major blow to everyone in the EDOs. He said the Attorney-General and the federal government have not sent an explanation for the budget cut.

Mr Sydes believes the EDOs may have been singled out. According to former EDO lawyer Australian Greens Senator Larissa Waters said Mr Abbott's decision to cut the budget was "outrageous."

Ms Waters said the budget cuts will cripple EDOs. She said there will be nothing to stand in the way of the Abbott government's mining magnate and big business buddies "abusing our environment for private profit."

Various environmental groups have slammed the budget cut as an attack on environmentalism. Environment Victoria chief executive Kelly O'Shanassy said the issue was not a matter of government wanting to save money.

Ms O'Shanassy mentioned that the federal government can give mining companies $10 billion in fossil fuel subsidies. She believes the government can "spare some change" for the EDOs.   

Adelaide University Law School senior lecturer Peter Burdon described the Abbot budget cut as "acts of barbarism." In an opinion article, he wrote that the budget cut will spur public support for EDO. 

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