Dear [your local MP’s name will be automatically entered],
I am deeply concerned that the federal government is seeking to restrict or even ban charities and their supporters from being able to speak up on issues of importance to Australians.
The Government has not yet revealed the full detail of its planned legislation, however it is my understanding that charities that receive international philanthropy will be banned from advocating on behalf of communities and individual Australians they represent.
It is unclear whether such a ban would be compatible with our constitutionally protected freedom of political communication. However, it sends a deeply troubling message that government is seeking to avoid accountability and silence the voice of communities around the country.
Such a ban would also deny the benefits that international philanthropy makes possible for many Australians.
There is a category difference between donations to political parties and philanthropy for charitable purposes and it would damage the functioning of our democracy if the parliament fails to recognise that.
Despite justifiable public concern about the influence of foreign donations to political parties, there is high public confidence and trust in charities and their support of the interests of everyday people and the issues they care about.
As a result of international philanthropy, charities are, for example, able to advocate on public health issues (such as commenting on the effectiveness of immunisation), ethics regulations (such as stem cell, human and animal ethics regulations), and medical research funding issues.
Further, through the support of international philanthropy, charities have been able to convince federal MPs to increase Australia’s funding for programs to help people affected by AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria.
International philanthropy also contributes directly to the wishes of Traditional Owners. With the support of charities, Indigenous people have been able to shift from the margins to the centre of decision-making over their traditional lands.
I strongly believe that charities should continue to be allowed to receive international philanthropy for the following reasons:
International philanthropy makes an important contribution to Australian charities in diverse fields such as health and medical research, Indigenous advancement, marine conservation, poverty alleviation, and education.
Many of these issues are of global significance. so it is appropriate for global philanthropy to play a role in such things as ensuring Australia continues to contribute to the global effort that sees the imminent end of polio and protecting an international icon such as the Great Barrier Reef. Many Australian organisations that deliver public good outcomes rely extensively on international philanthropy for their budgets.
The political activities of charities are already strictly regulated and constrained by the Charities Act 2013 and the Commonwealth Electoral Act 1918 as well as the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC),
Charities have much less access to and influence over the political process compared to political parties. Therefore, a new set of regulations to limit foreign donations to political parties should not be applied to charities.
I propose that Australian charities which are registered with the Australian Charities and Not-For-Profits Commission be exempt from any legislation that bans or limits charities receiving international philanthropy or being able to advocate on issues of importance to me and other Australians.
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