Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform Bill - bad news for charities and our communities
The Electoral Legislation Amendment (Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform ) Bill 2017 was introduced to the Senate on 7 December.
It seeks to address political influence and foreign donations with a ‘catch all’ approach that fails to recognise that charities are already prohibited from partisan political activity – but have a legitimate role as advocates when speaking up on issues in pursuit of their charitable purpose.
Tim Costello, Chief Advocate for World Vision and CCA Chair talks to Sky News:
.@WorldVisionAus' @TimCostello: 'Charities are for public benefit and under foreign interference legislation they'll be treated as political parties. These laws go to the lengths of gagging us' MORE: https://t.co/OgfVP6oylZ pic.twitter.com/xZEHCWUXQS— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) January 30, 2018
If charities are not exempt, all charities who take a role in public debate on any issue that may be relevant to an election (health, housing, education etc etc) will be caught in a new politics and advocacy regime that will impose a host of reporting, audit and registration obligations.
All charities involved in issues and policy advocacy - regardless of whether they receive foreign donations - are potentially affected.
There is no doubt that this legislation strangles and threatens to silence the voice of charities.
Analysis shared by Not-for-profit Law, Prolegis Lawyers, St Vincents de Paul, ACFID and Anglicare and commentary from CCA CEO David Crosbie illustrate the far-reaching impact of the proposed legislation.
The ACNC Commissioner has also said that the ACNC has submitted a response in relation to the proposed amendments. 'It is our view that the Bill, as formulated, will place a further regulatory burden on charities, and may inhibit their ability to advocate as a method of achieving its charitable purpose.' Comments further covered in The Australian: Gary Johns warns foreign donations bill means red tape for charities, 25 Jan. Read the ACNC's submission (#31) and others here.
CCA has been working with ACFID, ACOSS, Philanthropy Australia, the Human Rights Law Centre and a group of charity leaders in the #handsoffourcharities coalition to see charities exempt from the legislation. Full details here.
The Bill has been referred to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters (JSCEM).
Media coverage as CCA and leading charities give evidence to the JSCEM
.@TimCostello: 'We don't want foreign interference in politics, but this mostly applies to public groups like charities. Vested private, for profit interests, get a leave pass and we - who try to give a blanket to a homeless person - don't. It's ludicrous' https://t.co/OgfVP6oylZ pic.twitter.com/KmlHGAsP0N— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) January 30, 2018
Foreign donor bill 'doomed to fail', The Australian, 17 Feb
Donations ban 'constitutionally invalid', 9 News, 16 Feb
Charity donations 'in jeopardy', The Australian, 14 Feb
Turnbull's 18c on steroids, Gideon Rozner in The Spectator, 10 Feb
Government accused of undermining Australia's charities, Pro Bono News, 8 Feb
Hansard, House of Representatives, 7 Feb. Labor raises 'The Government undermining Australia's charities' as a Matter of Public Importance
Mathias Cormann concedes Coalition may have to change foreign donations ban, The Guardian, 7 Feb
Liberals must not sacrifice free speech to curb GetUp!, The Australian, 7 Feb
Only one in five Australians favour proposed limits on charitable advocacy, Pro Bono News, 7 Feb
Christian Porter flags dilution of foreign influence laws, Australian Financial Review, 6 Feb
Greens lead early attack on donations bill, West Australian, AAP, 5 Feb
Coalition voters don't like charity change, SBS, 5 Feb
Coalition efforts to restrict influence of charities go too far: Toni Hassan, Canberra Times, 5 Feb
Scientists fear criminal penalties under foreign donation ban, Sunday Telegraph, 4 Feb
Religious Freedoms under threat as government targets charities, Eternity News, 2 Feb
Charities unclear and concerned over foreign donations bill, Pro Bono News, 1 Feb
IPA echoes charity sector push to redraft foreign donations bill, Pro Bono News, 30 Jan
Catch up on earlier media coverage and advocacy by CCA and the #handsoffourcharities coaltion.