Charities and International Philanthropy: A position paper

As part of a move to ban foreign donations to political parties, the Government has flagged that it also intends to ban overseas funding to other organisations. The impact of this wider push may mean that registered charities are prevented from accepting international philanthropy.

This position paper has been prepared by a consortia of charities, led by the Australian Council for International Development, Philanthropy Australia and the Community Council for Australia.

Why charities should be allowed to receive international philanthropy

International philanthropy complements Australian philanthropy’s support for charities, and makes an important contribution to Australian communities. Registered charities should continue to be allowed to receive international philanthropy for the following reasons:

1.      International philanthropy makes an important contribution to Australian charities in diverse fields such as health and medical research, Indigenous advancement, marine conservation, poverty alleviation, and education. The work this philanthropy supports has very high public value.

2.      Charities exist for the public benefit and must work to further their charitable purposes. They must fulfill this fundamental obligation to retain their charitable status under Australian law.

3.      The political activities of charities are strictly regulated and constrained by the Charities Act 2013 (Cth) and the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918

4.      Charities are already regulated by a Statutory Regulator, the Australian Charities and Not-forprofits Commission (ACNC), which has powers to investigate and impose serious sanctions for any alleged breaches under relevant Acts.

5.      There is a category difference between political parties and charities. Charities have completely different access to and influence over the political process compared to political parties. Given the very different legal circumstances within which charities operate, a new set of regulations for political parties should not be applied to charities. 

What outcome are we proposing?

Despite public concern about the influence of foreign money in politics, there is high public confidence and trust in charities, and their ability to stand up for the interests of everyday people and the issues they care about.1 International philanthropic funding is an important part of many charities’ annual budgets and enable them to deliver their public good. Imposing further restrictions on charities would restrict the voice of communities, and hinder the healthy operation of our democracy.

We therefore propose that Australian charities registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission be exempt from any legislation that bans receiving international philanthropy.

​View full:  Position Paper