Foreign Donations Bill is a Dud

09 Apr, 2018

“The Committee has tried to patch-up this broken Bill, but it’s beyond repair and needs to be replaced,” said Marc Purcell (CEO of the Australian Council for International Development) in response to the new report on the Foreign Donations Bill by the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters.

“Because the Bill is flawed to its core, the Committee has recommended that the Government consider removing or redrafting many of its component parts. In its recommendations for a new ‘Transparency Register’ and spending thresholds, the Committee has written the foundations of a new Bill rather than rework the old one. The recommendations are positive and constructive, but they raise more questions. This reinforces the calls for the Bill to be withdrawn, properly consulted on and redrafted.

“The Committee has reflected the unprecedented community response about how this Bill will stifle the voice of Australians and corrode our democracy. It is recognition that the Government has overreached and needs to go back to the drawing board."

Commenting on specific provisions in the Bill, Marc Purcell continued:

“Central to our criticism of the Bill was that charities would be equated with political parties and that advocacy in line with a charities’ purpose would be mischaracterised as partisan. We welcome the Committee’s comments that the definitions are problematic; that they cause confusion with existing charities’ law; and need to be reconsidered.

“We strongly believe in greater transparency in our electoral system and the sources of funding for political activity, but we remain concerned that the Committee does not clearly defend civil society's right to use international philanthropy for advocacy for human rights protection, poverty alleviation or wildlife conservation. This will shut the door on key sources of funding and Australian communities will consequently bear the brunt of the withdrawal of charities’ services, support and advocacy.

“We would like to thank the Committee for their extensive work and extending the time they gave to the Bill’s consideration and the evidence given.”

ENDS

Further Information

The Australian Council for International Development is part of ‘Hands Off Our Charities’, a broad coalition of charities working to protect the freedom for charities and community groups to speak up for people they serve.

The Committee’s report can be found here.

Media Contact

For further information and interview requests, please contact Tim Watkin on 0401 721 064 or at [email protected]