Australian Charities Fight Back Against Government Proposals To Limit Advocacy

Juvenile Detention

Australian aid agencies and charities have combined forces to fight against proposed government regulation that will limit their ability to campaign for policy changes. The coalition passed a strongly worded motion during a conference that was meant to kick start their agitation against the proposal.  In the coming weeks legislation is expected to be introduced in parliament that would either limit or outright ban the use of foreign donations for advocacy in Australia.

Banning foreign donations

The decision to introduce such legislation was made following a parliamentary report which investigated the Federal election in 2016 and suggested that foreign donations should be banned not just to political parties, but also to so called “associated entities and third parties”. This is a broad definition which could include any organisation or charity that seeks to advocate for policy changes in Australia. The Federal Treasury is also conducting its own inquiry which proposes to limit how much advocacy environmental groups and other charities can engage in.

Charities unanimous in their opposition

The Treasury has proposed that environmental groups must be mandated to spend as much as half of their funding on remediation instead of campaigning. During the annual general meeting of the Australian Council for International Development (ACFiD) a motion was unanimously passed calling on the government to drop any regulations they may impose on the kind of advocacy charities can engage in or how much money they are entitled to receive from foreign donors.

Government should support the role of civil society not constrain it

WWF Australia chief executive Dermot O’ Gorman moved for the motion which was then seconded by Oxfam Australia chief executive Helen Szoke. The motion passed unanimously by all the members which include organisations ranging from the Australian Red Cross, Save the Children, the Salvation Army and medical colleges. The motion urges the Australian government to use its position as a member of the UN Human Rights Council to support the role of civil society and to defend against increased erosions of civic space in other countries all over the world.

Freedom of expression under threat

Mr O’Gorman says the proposed regulations come at time when freedom of expression for civil society all over the world is increasingly being threatened. He adds that his organisation has been extremely concerned by developments over the last few months where vested interests such as the Minerals Council of Australia is seeking to enshrine these regulations in to law in order constrain civil society for financial gain.

Government trying to silence opposition

Richard Di Natale leader of the Greens says his party will use its numbers in the Senate in order to ensure that charities remain exempt from any ban imposed on foreign donations. He adds that it is quite obvious that the Turnbull government is attempting to silence civil society and that its proposed legislation is an indictment on a government that refuses to tolerate criticism.

"Please note, any prices mentioned in the Charity Gifts blog are correct at the time of posting. Please check the relevant website for the latest pricing information."

Leave a Reply