EDO NSW under attack, yet again

By EDO NSW Executive Director Jeff Smith

21 August 2015

Our involvement in the successful Carmichael case has reignited attacks on the office with new articles criticising EDO NSW in the Australian in recent days. These attacks date back to 2011, and recur not infrequently.

We are always happy to be accountable, and welcome scrutiny of our work. Here, though, the accusations are old, and have been answered time and time again. We have a lot of work to do in protecting the environment through law, and we are determined to get on with it.

However, we are again happy to set the record straight. 

First, there is the accusation that EDO NSW "helped prepare" the Stopping the Coal Export Boom document, a document produced by a number of conservation groups.

As we have explained before, we do not endorse the document, are not a campaigning organisation and our involvement amounted to nothing more than the provision of legal advice and information. We have represented many thousands of clients over the years and this is what we do - provide legal services.

Second, there is the accusation that EDO NSW is using taxpayer funds improperly. The most recent example is that we used NSW taxpayer money to run the Carmichael coal mine case in Queensland.

This is also incorrect. EDO NSW always uses grant funding for the purpose that it is allocated. No Public Purpose Fund (PPF) or NSW Government monies  - that is, funds which do primarily need to be spent in NSW - were expended in this matter. Litigation is a minor part of our practice, usually comprising less than 1% of matters that come to us through our Environmental Law Line. The Carmichael case is an example of a matter of national environmental significance in which we were asked to assist, and had the expertise to do so. As a result, the matter was successfully resolved with the agreement of all parties.

Under our current Budget, NSW PPF funds account for 32% of our income while NSW Government funds account for just over 12%. The majority of EDO NSW funding last year and this year came from non-government grants, fees and donations, and it is these monies that were used to run this case.

Our donors and supporters have continued to recognise the importance of an independent community legal centre with the expertise to help individuals and groups protect the environment through law, for which we are very grateful. It is this support that will ensure that we can be here to assist the community for another 30 years.