Today, along with 65 other signatories, I supported an open letter that has been written by Philanthropy Australia regarding the Electoral Act Changes that are going to have, in our view, a detrimental impact on Australia’s philanthropic donations and charities. This letter was published in today’s Financial Review, page 13.
If you do not have a copy of the paper on hand, the letter read:
Open letter from Philanthropy
Electoral Act Changes
“Public policy development and advocacy for a fairer, more prosperous and more sustainable country is at serious risk.
Contributions to public debate from charities and philanthropy around public policy is under serious threat as a result of the proposed Electoral Legislative Amendment (Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform) Bill 2017 (the Bill).
Intended or otherwise, the consequences of the Bill are far-reaching and will suffocate policy development and public advocacy, both of which are central to a healthy democracy.
Philanthropy Australia is the peak body for philanthropy. Our members comprise Australia’s leading philanthropists, trusts, foundations and social change organisations. While we support the central purpose of the Bill, which is improved regulation of foreign donations to political parties, we urge that the Bill be withdrawn and redrafted.
The Bill conflates political campaigning and issue advocacy.
If this Bill becomes law, many charities, as well as their major donors, are likely to come within the scope of these new electoral laws.
Key parts of our civil society, including charities, philanthropies and donors, will be defined as political actors rather than advocates for the long-term public good and health of our democracy.
In addition, the Bill as it stands will impose a massive increase in regulatory compliance and red tape on charities and philanthropy. It will simply suffocate the organisations that we all rely on to improve the health and well-being of individuals, families and communities across Australia.
We must maintain the right and opportunity for the thoughtful exchange of ideas around new solutions to entrench or emerging social, health, education and environmental challenges, free from the lens of political partisanship.
We call on the Government to withdraw and redraft the Bill to focus on legitimately restricting undue foreign influence on our political parties. We must let philanthropy and charities continue their vital role which includes public advocacy on policy issues which shape our nation.”