Treasury Laws Amendment (2023 Measures No. 2) Bill 2023
Consideration of Senate Message
House of Representatives, 19 June 2023
These amendments relate to the tax deductibility status for entities in the upcoming referendum debate. It is something of a coincidence that we are speaking on this matter just as that item has passed the parliament. Providing tax-deductible status to organisations participating in public campaigning on the referendum allows the community to support public conversations for and against the Voice to Parliament. As the government has announced, we will not be providing public funding for either the 'yes' or the 'no' case; however, this amendment provides tax-deductible gift recipient status to a 'no' case entity.
For the benefit of the House I'll provide a little background on that. In the May budget, the government made a decision to provide tax-deductible gift recipient status for an organisation campaigning against the Voice to Parliament. There hadn't been any proposals for 'no' case organisations until March 2022, so the budget included the Voice No Case Committee. However, one day before the budget was published, the Voice No Case Committee informed Treasury that it was no longer seeking deductible gift recipient status. It then announced, through media statements, that it had merged with the newly formed entity Australians for Unity and would be the main vehicle campaigning against the Voice. That entity didn't exist until mid-April and only had its charitable status approved last Thursday. Last Friday, the Senate approved amendments which would provide Australians for Unity, the principal vehicle for campaigning for a 'no' case, with tax-deductible gift recipient status that would be backdated to 13 April.
I would note, for the benefit of honourable members, that it's taken around two months for Australians for Unity to be granted tax-deductible gift recipient status. That contrasts with the process to approve tax-deductible gift recipient status for Australians for Indigenous Constitutional Recognition, which took seven months. Australians for Indigenous Constitutional Recognition had been working to achieve tax-deductible status since 2020. In a broader sense, its journey towards tax-deductible gift recipient status was a matter of years. The journey of the principal 'no' case Australians for Unity was simply a couple of months. The 'no' case organisation, Australians for Unity, will be listed as a tax-deductible gift recipient from 1 June 2023 to 30 June 2024. On that basis, there will be one 'yes' case vehicle with specific tax-deductible gift-recipient listing, Australians for Indigenous Constitutional Recognition, and one 'no' case vehicle approved for tax-deductible gift-recipient listing, Australians for Unity.
Australians will forego the tax revenue that would otherwise have been collected on that income, but this is a considerably smaller sum than if specific funding had been provided to the 'yes' case and the 'no' case. There is balance now, with the principal 'yes' case vehicle and the principal 'no' case vehicle being entities to which tax deductible donations can be made. In both cases, this is a time-limited tax-deductibility period. That is appropriate, given that the referendum will take place later this year. I commend the Senate amendments to the House.