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Aid/Watch only the first of many to fall

"The decision by the Australian Tax Office (ATO) to strip Aid/Watch of its charity tax status is another attack on Australian democracy," said Senator Rachel Siewert today.

"Aid/Watch is only the first of a large number of community organisations, from environment groups to welfare organisations who we can expect to lose tax deductibility status in an attempt to either silence them or starve them of funds."

"Aid/Watch is only the first in the line of dominos to go down in the start of a major campaign to silence dissent."

"The ATO decision signals a clear shift in policy which will bring about major changes to democracy within our nation."

With the polls continuing to slide against them, it is in the interests of the Howard government to stamp down hard on caring organisations who speak out against harsh policy decisions - like its failure to deliver on aid promises, its targeting of single mums and people with a disability through Welfare to Work, and its failure to make headway on Indigenous disadvantage.

"Civil society organisations are caught between a rock and a hard place. They are caught between the need to secure funds to continue their good works, and the need to go beyond band-aid strategies to address the root causes," said Senator Siewert.

"Either they stop speaking out on policy so they can get the funds, or they choose to do it tough so they can continue to speak out against injustice." "The result is a quieter and less caring society," concluded Senator Siewert.

The Greens believe that the sign of a healthy democracy is the way in which it encourages public debate and engages the community in the policy decisions that affect them.

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