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.

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 LawProlegis LawyersSt Vincents de PaulACFID 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). 

Read CCA’s Submission

Media coverage as CCA and leading charities give evidence to the JSCEM

Cormann: foreign donations ban ‘ineffective’ if charities exempt, The Guardian, 27 Feb

Excluding charities makes foreign donations ban ‘entirely ineffective’ says Cormann, Pro Bono News, 27 Feb

Charities good work put at risk by ‘inept’ Coalition laws, says Labor, The Guardian, 26 Feb

Labor will not support donations laws that ‘punish’ charities, Shorten says, The Guardian, 25 Feb

Bill Shorten signals fight over charity crackdown, Sydney Morning Herald, 25 Feb

Don’t silence our charities: Shorten, SBS, 25 Feb

Foreign donations bill ‘likely’ to be struck down by High Court, Pro Bono News, 19 Feb

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

The war on charities continues – Media Release from Shadow Minister for Charities and Not-for-profits, Andrew Leigh MP

Greens lead early attack on donations bill, West Australian, AAP, 5 Feb

Coalition voters don’t like charity change, SBS, 5 Feb

At government hearings, Australian NGOs get harsh reception, Devex, 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

11 ways experts say the Governments new foreign donations laws will screw democracy, Buzzfeed, 2 Feb

Religious Freedoms under threat as government targets charities, Eternity News, 2 Feb

Tim Costello compares Coalition’s foreign donation ban to Putin’s crackdown on dissent, The Guardian, 1 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

IPA joins forces with GetUp! to condemn ‘unprecedented and dangerous’ donations laws, The Age, 29 Jan

Catch up on earlier media coverage and advocacy by CCA and the #handsoffourcharities coaltion.