Media Release: Charities still confused!

‘The release of the Joint Standing Committee in Electoral Matters (JSCEM) report into political donations acknowledges the problems and is a step in the right direction, but it still does not clearly identify how a newly drafted Bill will ensure charities can speak up for their causes or their communities without being labelled political actors’, according to David Crosbie, CEO of the Community Council for Australia (CCA).

The proposed Bill (Electoral Legislation Amendment Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform Bill 2017) was primarily focused on improving transparency and accountability, particularly for political parties and political campaigners that receive overseas donations.  Unfortunately for the government, the Bill, as presented to the Parliament and reviewed by JSCEM in this new Report imposed onerous restrictions and expanding red tape regimes on many charities both big and small.  The proposed Bill treated any charity advocating for their cause or their community in the same way that they would treat a political party trying to get members into the Parliament.

Mr Crosbie said; ‘we believe if the government implement all the recommendations of this report, a revised Bill may still have a chilling impact on charities across Australia.  Many charities may still face the decision to not raise their voice on behalf of their cause or their community, or, risk being labelled a political campaigner and having to comply with a broad range of onerous obligations including documenting their advocacy activities and their income streams.’

Rev Tim Costello, Chief Advocate for World Vision and Chair of CCA said; ‘anti-charity and anti-foreign philanthropy Bills are being introduced around the world to silence the voice of civil society.  I believe Australian governments perform better when the charities sector are active advocates for their causes and communities whether it is better housing, better healthcare, better education, better international development – the voices of our charities enhance national policy making in critical areas of our lives. 

The first Disclosure Reform Bill would have been a disaster for civil society and although JSCEM have made some important recommendations, the JSCEM Report does not provide the clarity we were hoping for.  The parliament will need to do more work to ensure these Bills achieve their goal of enhancing rather than undermining democracy in Australia.’

Mr Crosbie agreed there were some positives in the JSCEM report, but still believed the Bill itself still needs significant changes if it is not to create significant uncertainty and increased red tape for charities, both big and small.’

See also:

Open Letter to Parliamentarians #HandsOffOurCharities – we are not the problem when it comes to foreign influence

Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform Bill – bad news for charities and our community