Foreign Donations Law: Third Party Support - Media Release

SENATOR DON FARRELL

SENATOR FOR SOUTH AUSTRALIA

DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE

SHADOW SPECIAL MINISTER OF STATE

SHADOW MINISTER FOR SPORT

ANDREW LEIGH MP

SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER

SHADOW MINISTER FOR COMPETITION AND PRODUCTIVITY

SHADOW MINISTER FOR TRADE IN SERVICES

SHADOW MINISTER FOR CHARITIES AND NOT-FOR-PROFITS

MEMBER FOR FENNER

FOREIGN DONATIONS LAW: THIRD PARTY SUPPORT

“Hands Off Our Charities welcomes the passing of this version of the Bill through the House of Representatives today and is pleased to see a much more sensible Bill get bipartisan support. In December 2017, the Australian Government introduced a flawed Bill which proposed sweeping new constraints and regulation of civil society advocacy. There was an outpouring of opposition to the reforms from charities, community groups, business groups, academics and more. [In April this year] Opposition Leader Bill Shorten released a statement saying that it was the Australian Labor Party’s policy to ban foreign donations but that Labor wouldn’t “support anything that punishes the charity and not-for-profit sector”. The willingness of all parties to work with us to improve this Bill is an important recognition of the role that charities and not-for-profit organisations play in keeping governments accountable and advocating for the public good. This is how democracy should work – civil society speaking up, and parliament working with us cooperatively.”

- Hands Off Our Charities (signatories: Amnesty International Australia, Anglicare Australia,  Australian Conservation Foundation, Australian Council for International Development, Australian Council of Social Service, Australian Environmental Grantmakers Network, Australian Lawyers for Human Rights, Australian Marine Conservation Society, Australian Progress, Caritas Australia, Climate Council of Australia, Digital Rights Watch, Friends of the Earth Australia, Global Health Alliance Melbourne, Greenpeace Australia Pacific, Human Rights Law Centre, Humane Society International Australia, Jesuit Social Services, National Association of Community Legal Centres, Oxfam Australia, People with Disability Australia, Pew Charitable Trusts, Philanthropy Australia, Public Health Association of Australia, Queensland Community Alliance, RESULTS International (Australia), St Vincent de Paul Society National Council, Sunshine Coast Environment Council, Uniting Church in Australia, Synod of Victoria and Tasmania, WWF-Australia and 350 Australia)

“When first introduced in November 2017, this bill was a draconian proposal that redefined non-partisan, independent, issues-based advocacy as political campaigning and would have subjected Australian charities to many of the restrictions in the Electoral Act that were designed and intended for political parties. The proposal that has entered the Senate is a significant improvement, addressing many of the concerns raised by charities and non-profits. The change to the definition of ‘electoral matter’ in particular … will free charities from a significant red tape burden. ACF recognises the federal Labor Party, the Opposition Leader, and particularly Shadow Charities Minister Andrew Leigh and Shadow Special Minister of State Don Farrell for their ongoing consultation with the charity sector.”

- Kelly O’Shannassy, CEO Australian Conservation Foundation

“Advocacy is essential to our democracy. By empowering charities to give voice to the community, we can shape better policies that address the causes of social and environmental problems. It is for this reason that our Members fund advocacy. We opposed the Bill in its original form because we were concerned it would have a harmful effect on such advocacy. Philanthropy Australia is pleased that the Government and Opposition have worked to address our concerns. We thank them for their willingness to engage constructively, and particularly appreciate the efforts of the Minister for Finance, Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann; the Shadow Minister for Charities and Not-for-profits, the Hon Andrew Leigh MP; and the Shadow Special Minister of State, Senator the Hon Don Farrell.”

- Philanthropy Australia

“The Human Rights Law Centre welcomes the electoral funding bill … which is vastly different from the initial proposal that would have stifled vital public advocacy by charities. In December 2017, the Turnbull Government introduced a badly flawed bill, purportedly to address foreign influence in elections that would have stifled public advocacy by charities and other community groups. A strong campaign from the united charity sector highlighted the extensive flaws in the proposal. Charities and community groups do vital work building a better, healthier society. Our democracy is stronger when they are free to speak up.”

- Hugh de Kretser, Human Rights Law Centre Executive Director

“The Community Council for Australia was very concerned about how the original Electoral Reform Bill would have impacted on thousands of charities who would have faced quite complicated new administrative requirements and restrictions if they chose to make any public statements advocating for their cause or their community. Since CCA first raised our concerns about the Bill, the Shadow Minister for Charities Andrew Leigh has been an active advocate for a more sensible approach that would protect issues-based advocacy by charities. We are pleased that a more reasoned Bill is now being introduced into the Parliament and would like to acknowledge the ALP, Greens, cross-bench Senators and the government who have all now agreed that electoral reform should proceed without significantly restricting the public advocacy of charities that are pursuing their charitable purpose. Our democracy is stronger when charities are able to actively represent their causes and ensure the least powerful in our communities are represented.”

- David Crosbie, Community Council for Australia CEO

“It is vital for democracy and society that charities can speak up and advocate on issues of public importance.  We welcome the changes made to this Bill that will allow this to continue.  We congratulate the MPs from all parties that listened to concerns from charities and worked hard to make this legislation work for Australia and for Australians.”

- Barry Trail, Pew Charitable Trusts Australian Director

“The Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes welcomes the news that medical research institutes will not, as earlier feared following the release of proposed legislation, lose the ability to speak out on a public policy issues or be administratively hampered when receiving vital international research grants. We’re pleased to see that our concerns were heard, and this Bill now strikes a much better balance between protecting the integrity of our electoral processes while allowing for charities to speak out on important matters. We would particularly like to acknowledge the support of Bill Shorten, Andrew Leigh, Senator Don Farrell, Senator Matthias Cormann and Senator Linda Reynolds whose work ensured that the sector’s concerns were heard and addressed.”

- Professor Tony Cunningham AO, President of the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes

“Global Health Alliance Melbourne welcomes the bipartisan and cross bench support for this version of the Bill, which is a drastically improved version from the original draft. The Bill being presented with the associated agreed amendments means that investments from foreign donors such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to vital health and medical research – in areas from paediatrics to malaria - will now not be jeopardised.”

- Misha Coleman, Global Health Alliance Melbourne Executive Director

ENDS

Authorised by Noah Carroll, ALP, Canberra.


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