Strengthened charity advocacy laws pass after year of consultation

Strengthened charity advocacy laws pass after year of consultation

The Human Rights Law Centre welcomes the passing of the electoral funding bill, which, after consultation with charities and not-for-profit organisations, is vastly different from the initial flawed proposal that would have stifled vital public advocacy by charities.

"After a year-long slog to fix this bill, this outcome shows just how vital civil society is, and why greater effort must be focused on strengthening the ability of charities and community groups to speak up on behalf of the communities and public interests they represent," said Human Rights Law Centre Executive Director, Hugh de Kretser.

"Whether they run a homeless shelter, tackle family violence or protect the environment, charities and other community groups have enormous expertise to contribute to public debates on improving laws and policies. This legislation adopts a far more sensible approach to regulating election communications while ensuring charities and other community groups are free to speak up about their work."

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.

"We welcome the major improvements to this bill and thank MPs across the parties for their constructive engagement on this issue," said Mr de Kretser.

"This bill is not the end of the road on democratic reform. The Government must do more to address the influence large corporations have through election spending and lobbying. Further, charities across the country still face significant pressure from the threat of funding cuts in retaliation for advocacy critical of government policy," said Mr de Kretser.

"Charities and community groups do vital work building a better, healthier society. Our democracy is stronger when they are free to speak up," said Mr de Kretser.

The Human Rights Law Centre’s submission on the original bill is here and an explainer on the original bill is here.

For interviews:

Michelle Bennett, Director of Communications, Human Rights Law Centre, 0419 100 519