ENVIRONMENTAL groups have warned an inquiry into their tax-deductible donation status could threaten freedom of speech and appears to be "politically motivated".
Environment Minister Greg Hunt ordered the federal lower house inquiry into the Register of Environmental Organisations to examine what these groups were doing with their donations.
Mr Hunt ordered it after the Minerals Council earlier this year publicly called for an investigation to focus on such groups and their expression of political views as opposed to on-ground environmental activities.
With more than 580 submissions released to date, the battle lines again are being drawn between mining and development interests, and environmental lobby groups.
But the Australian Conservation Foundation has detailed its concerns there was "political motivation behind this inquiry".
The foundation also wrote it was concerned the inquiry "will be used as an attempt to limit the freedom of speech of advocacy-based environmental organisations, and to ban or restrict environmental groups engaging in advocacy activities from accessing deductible gift recipient status".
However, the Minerals Council wrote it believed some organisations were using donations to "fund activities that have only a tangential relation to natural conservation", saying some groups were instead using the system to pursue "an ideological agenda".