Government presses “mute” on community voices

05 Dec, 2017

Responding to the Government’s announcement of the Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform Bill, and the inclusion of charities in its scope, CEO of the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID), peak body for international development and humanitarian charities Marc Purcell said:

“The Government has confirmed charities’ worst fears. It claims that the Bill takes into account the realities of contemporary political campaigning, yet to us, this is a regressive step for Australia’s democracy. The Bill attempts to shut down legitimate comment on matters of public interest by restricting the funding sources available to charities.

“Australian charities are already prevented from being partisan under the Charities Act and are well regulated by the Australian Charities and Not for Profit Commission (ACNC). The right to advocate and campaign on issues of public concern at any time, including elections, is allowed under the Act and this right has been upheld by the High Court.

“The restrictions in this Bill will limit the valuable work of charities in undertaking life-saving medical research; providing access to education; amplifying the voice and rights of Indigenous Australians; and sustaining and protecting our shared natural environment. They also cut off a vital and complementary source of funding for Australian charities, which are generously supported by domestic giving and supplemented with international philanthropy.

“We have sought to work constructively with the Government to address the negative implications of this Bill in both the threat it poses to charitable giving and the ability of charities to speak-up for Australians. We are dismayed that our input hasn’t been heeded. We remain concerned about whether the intention of the Bill is to improve democratic process or to mute the voices of Australian charities.

“We will be informing all parliamentarians of our grave concerns about this Bill and will be seeking their support in amending this legislation to exclude registered Australian charities.”

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