Fears Charities Could Be Stopped From Receiving International Philanthropy

03 Sep, 2017

Following concerns that charities could be banned from receiving international philanthropy under proposed legislation to ban foreign donations to political parties, a consortia of charities has issued a position paper calling for charities registered with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission to be exempt from any such legislation. 
CEO of the Australian Council for International Development, Marc Purcell, said:
“We remain very concerned that this proposed legislation could prevent charities in Australia from accepting international philanthropy. Alongside civil society groups from across Australia, we have put our concerns to the Government and will be taking them to the Committee on Electoral Matters.
“International philanthropy complements domestic philanthropy in supporting charities across a number of fields including health and medical research, Indigenous advancement, poverty alleviation and education. It makes a valuable contribution to the public good in Australia and we do not want to see it lost under this legislation.
“We are concerned that this proposed legislation is built on a false premise – that charities with a voice in our democracy and political parties who form governments and exercise executive power are one and the same. This is patently untrue and to regulate overseas funding in the same way would be mistaken. We are yet to see how the Government will navigate through this to avoid hampering charitable work and stymieing the voice of communities in Australia.
“The advocacy work charities are permitted to undertake is already set out in Charitable and Electoral law, and the statutory regulator – the Australian Charities and Not for Profit Commission – has powers to investigate and impose penalties for wrong-doing. Charities cannot endorse parties or political candidates, cannot advise the public on which way to vote and must stick to their charitable purpose when it comes to advocacy.”
Notes to Editors
Read 'Charities and International Philanthropy: A position paper' prepared by a consortia of charities, led by the Australian Council for International Development, Philanthropy Australia and the Community Council for Australia. The paper sets out that Australian charities registered with the Australian Charities and Not-forprofits Commission should be exempt from any legislation that bans receiving international philanthropy. 
The position paper has been shared with the Federal Government and members of the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters who have reopened their inquiry into 2016's Federal Election. The Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters reopened its inquiry into all aspects of the conduct of the 2016 Federal Election and matters related therto and called for further submission until Monday 4 September.
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