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The Joint Parliamentary Committee into Electoral Matters has released the Advisory report on the Electoral Legislation Amendment (Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform) Bill 2017. You can read more about the inquiry here.
Our Not-for-profit Law service praises the collaborative approach of the Committee and supports the Committee’s commitment towards ensuring transparency, clarity and simplicity of the Bill.
Overall, the Advisory Report takes welcome steps towards addressing some of the charity sector’s key concerns - including the definition of 'political purposes' and 'political expenditure,' but does not go so far as carving out activities within charitable purposes as permitted by the Charities Act 2013 (Cth) from the proposed Bill.
Some of the good recommendations (noting they are only recommendations and we are yet to see how Government may respond):
- reconsider introducing the term ‘political purpose‘ into the Electoral Act 1918, having regard to the potential confusions with the Charities Act 2013 in which the term has a divergent meaning (Recommendation 1)
- consider amending the definition of ‘political expenditure’ to define the type of expenditure which constitutes expenditure undertaken to influence voters to take specific action as voters, so as not to capture non-political issue advocacy (Recommendation 2)
- consider reducing the proposed penalties in the Bill, and that penalties be proportionate to the type of breach displayed (Recommendation 13)
- appropriately resource both the AEC and the ACNC to undertake a comprehensive education campaign for business, for industry associations, and for the charity sector on their obligations under the Electoral Act 1918 (Recommendation 15)
Any concerns? Yes Not-for-profit Law is concerned about some of the Committee’s comments and the impact of its recommendations. We want the definition of political campaigning to use the definition applied by the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission. Justice Connect will continue to work as a part of the #HandsOffOurCharities to ensure charities can continue to pursue their charitable purposes through advocacy without additional compliance or restrictions.
Related media on the release of the report
- Government forced to water down foreign donations ban, but aid groups still unhappy, ABC, 10 April 2018
Parliamentary committee failed to protect charities from foreign interference laws, ACOSS says, RN Breakfast, ABC, 10 April 2018
Coalition told to rewrite foreign donations bill in unanimous report, The Guardian, 9 April 2018
Bipartisan committee calls for changes to foreign donations bill, Financial Review, 9 April 2018
Foreign donation ban needs changes: report, news.com.au, 9 April 2018
Foreign Donations Report Aims to Provide ‘Greater Clarity for Charities’, Pro Bono News, 9 April 2018