Silencing advocacy about public policy would threaten democracy

Banning advocacy by charities who receive international philanthropy about public policy and the issues affecting communities would strike at the health of democratic culture in Australia and must be strongly opposed.

The planned Electoral Legislation Amendment (Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform) Bill 2017 will prohibit charities having a public voice on issues they were established to address, if they are receiving funding from an international donor to do so.

Cassandra Goldie, CEO of ACOSS said: “It is an essential part of a thriving civil society that we have a voice on the debates of the country including public policy, issues affecting our communities, and government action.

“The advocacy of the community sector holds politicians from all sides of politics to account, fosters the public debates we need, and ensures people from across the board have a voice to government.

“Our voice must be heard in the public arena.

“Community and charitable organisations work with local communities and individuals to support local solutions and effect wider systemic change.

“This can only be done by working with government and policy makers to ensure the voices of communities are heard where policies are likely to affect them.

“Charities who receive international philanthropy must be able to continue to advocate for the people and the communities with whom they work.

“International philanthropy funds health and medical research, work in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, education, protection of our environment and essential poverty alleviation.

“It is vital to many organisations that work to build a fairer society.

“It is vital this bill protects the capacity of organisations that receive international philanthropy to advocate on issues that affect us all.

“Charities assist people, they are not political parties.

“The public wants charities to speak up about the important issues in our community.

“The Bill must make the distinction between foreign donations to political parties and international philanthropy for charitable purposes.”