PM urged: nature needs a voice too

Furry green groups protest tax changes

A SENATE inquiry into the Abbott government's attacks on the Australian environment has heard funding cuts to green groups are hurting farmers too.

"One of the things the senators picked up on was about the importance of us working within regional communities," Queensland Conservation Council co-ordinator Nicky Hungerford said outside the hearing.

"Previously when we had funding we were able to employ a rural liaison officer and our job was then working with farmers about how we could find some common ground and how we can actually work in protecting their environment while still having a sustainable business, and we can't do that anymore because of funding cuts."

One of the senators on the inquiry committee, Larissa Waters, warned taxpayers were next in line to suffer along with environmental advocacy groups.

She said the Abbott government's plan to remove tax deductibility of donations to environment groups would devastate environmental protection.

"One in five Australians donate to environment groups - their generosity and altruism should be rewarded by government," the senator said.

"Today, the environment movement is standing with farmers and regional communities to advocate against big coal and gas sacrificing our future food security.

"The senate inquiry, initiated by the Greens, will continue to investigate the impacts of the government's repeated attacks on the environment, including its defunding of Environmental Defenders' Offices."

The inquiry heard at least one state EDO, which provides environmental legal advice, was facing closure.

Ms Waters said removing funding left the community with the burden of enforcing environmental law.

Peaceful protesters from the Greens, Greenpeace and the Australian Marine Conservation Society were dressed in animal costumes outside the inquiry in Brisbane on Tuesday.