Federal Member for Newcastle Sharon Claydon has warned that the Turnbull Government’s proposed foreign donations reform could prevent many charities, not-for-profits and advocacy groups from speaking out on government policy.
Ms Claydon said she was ‘deeply concerned’ about the Government’s legislation, saying it had the potential to shut down a lot of important political advocacy in Australia.
"The impacts of this legislation are truly chilling. This Bill would effectively silence many charitable and not-for-profit organisations from speaking out on the policies that affect the people they represent,” Ms Claydon said.
“The onerous compliance regimes in the bill could impact on organisations who rely on public support in the form of financial donations.
“If this legislation proceeds as it stands, many charities may be prevented from having a public voice in important policy areas like health, housing, environment and education.
“There are fundamental differences between charities and advocacy groups and political parties and it’s completely inappropriate to treat them the same way.”
Ms Claydon said there was a clear need to protect Australian democracy from undue foreign influence, but reiterated that there was ‘no way on earth’ that Labor would be supporting the bill in its current form.
“Labor has a clear policy to ban foreign donations to political parties,” Ms Claydon said. “But this doesn’t mean we’ll let the Government sell out civil society in the process.
“We will continue to work with the Government on a sensible way to ban foreign donations without shutting out vital organisations from the national policy conversation.”
Ms Claydon said charities and advocacy groups play a critical role in Australian democracy.
“Charities and advocacy groups are often the first to ring the warning bell on dangerous or damaging legislation. Excluding them from the public debate would be disastrous,” Ms Claydon said.
“Whether they are fighting for vulnerable Australians or identifying the genuinely unintended consequences of government policy, it would be catastrophic to silence these voices.”
An inquiry into the Electoral Legislation Amendment (Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform) Bill 2017 is currently being undertaken by the Parliamentary Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters.