Tasmanian Liberal Senator Richard Colbeck reignited the issue after the multinational activist group last week sabotaged a fishing trawler’s departure from the Netherlands, en-route for Tasmanian waters.
Greenpeace activists chained themselves to the FV Margiris and blocked the large fishing vessel’s propeller in an effort to hinder its voyage.
One of the world’s largest fishing trawlers, the Margiris has suffered Greenpeace attacks in the past, amid accusations of over-fishing off West Africa and depleting fishing stocks.
Greenpeace and Tasmanian conservation groups have urged the federal government to reject the vessel’s application for permission to fish in Australian waters.
Greenpeace spokesman James Lorenz said conservation groups and recreational and commercial fishers were all up in arms about the world’s second largest fishing vessel - described by green groups as a “Hoover” - being allowed to fish in Tasmanian waters.
He said the boat had a reputation for using questionable fishing practices, like 50-metre drag nets.
But the Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) has rejected any concerns about over-fishing, while managing the vessel’s catch-limit in light of environmental considerations.
Mr Lorenz says the AFMA based its decision on out-dated figures and believes the FV Margiris remains “a massive threat to fisheries”.
However Senator Colbeck says Greenpeace’s attack on the FV Margiris is typically misguided and the activist group’s charitable status must be questioned.
Australia’s fisheries are globally benchmarked and recognised as among the best in the world, he said.
“Greenpeace’s latest activity strengthens the arguments for environmental activist groups that act unlawfully to lose the charitable status allocated by the ATO,” he said.
“I think Australians have very firm views about what a charity does.
“I don’t think they consider an enviro-political activist group like Greenpeace, which acts outside the law, to be in the same category as groups like Red Cross or Make-A-Wish Foundation.”
In July last year, Queensland Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce raised similar concerns about Greenpeace’s charitable status after two activists staged a dawn raid on CSIRO facilities in Canberra and used whipper-snippers to destroy government-approved genetically modified wheat trials, causing $300,000 damage.
“Taxpayers should not fund the destruction of taxpayers’ property,” Senator Joyce said.
The New Zealand High Court ruled Greenpeace’s political activities prevent it from being registered as a charity in that country.
Greenpeace appealed against the Charities Commission’s 2010 ruling - but last year Justice Paul Heath found the judgment was correct.
His ruling said non-violent but potentially illegal activities (such as trespass) were “an independent object disqualifying it from registration as a charitable entity”.
Senator Colbeck said the Coalition was informally looking at the charitable statutes and tax exemption qualification of various groups like Greenpeace.
He said a number of environmental groups had attacked legitimate businesses with misinformation and were afforded certain privileges and legislative protections that those businesses didn’t have.
“They should be made to play according to the same rules as everyone else,” he said.
“They utterly misrepresent our fisheries management and processes, just so they can attract attention to themselves … to create perceptions of a crisis, so that people donate to them.”
Senator Colbeck, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, said Greenpeace wasn’t the only group that needed to be held accountable.
He said farmers and other primary production sectors, along with resource industries, were all in the firing line.
Mr Lorenz said “fortunately” charity status wasn’t a political football in Australia and advocacy and peaceful protest were a “legitimate and important part of our democracy”.
He said the ATO awarded charitable status after a rigorous process.
“We are perfectly happy that as an independent body their processes will be thorough, fair and will continue to be unaffected by politics,” he said.
“It’s increasingly evident that we live in an age where dissent is becoming less and less tolerated by governments everywhere.
“But we should not forget that dissent has been the driving force behind every progressive social change we’ve known, such as women gaining the right to vote.”
Mr Lorenz said a broad range of the community - from conservation groups to local fishermen - have reacted strongly against the impending arrival in Tasmanian waters of one of the world's most destructive fishing vessels, because the impacts would be significant.