Although the government in the US provides little support to environmental advocacy groups, it is more common in Europe, particularly the Netherlands, and also in Australia.
In Australia many environmental groups depend on government funding. In 1991 a House of Representatives Standing Committee foudn taht funding of peak health and community organisations helped with the "development of appropriate policies and programs" and a 1995 Industry Commission report confirmed the role of peak community sector organisations in providing "advocacy and representation".
Although non-profits receive funding from a wide range of sources, government funding is the most important... most NGOs require funding to facilitate and co-ordinate their volunteer labour force and, although government funding comprises only a portion of total resources, without it many NGOs would be unable to operate effectively.
However the Howard Government (1996-2007) resented the criticism that came from NGOs it funded. The Treasurer Peter Costello proposed that any charity engaging in advocacy activities be disqualified from being defined as a charity and although the government decided against this but the Tax Office "indicated that if it finds that a charity has a dominant advocacy role then it is likely that its charitable status will be revoked".
In 2005 the federal environment minister wrote to environment groups telling them taht thier tax deductible status was dependent on them confining their activities to "the conservation of the natural environment and not for any other purpose, such as political activity". He also announced that grants to envionmental groups would be limited to $10,000 and given to groups doing practical work such as tree planting.
John Howard claimed that there is a "frustrated mainstream in Australia today which sees government decisions increasingly driven by the noisy, self-interested clamour of powerful vested interests". The vested interests he was referring to were community, environmental and women's groups rather than business lobbies. Consequently his government sought to defund, intimidate and undermine critical NGOs.
A survey of NGOs with some sort of advocacy role, conducted by The Australia Institute, found that
around 70 per cent report that their government funding restricts their ability to comment on government policy. Many commented on implicit constraints on their ability to speak...It is apparent that self-censorship is as effective as explicit contractual prohibitions... It is widely believed among NGOs that the Federal Government, and to a lesser extent state governments, want to silence public debate... 90 per cent of respondents believe that dissenting organisations risk having their funding cut.
Apart from funding cuts, the government used "ministerial interference and criticism, excessive auditing and 'review'" as well as bulling by senior government staff and threats to undermine NGOs critical of government policy.