New Labor Government Removes ‘Gagging’ Clauses
Thursday, 24th January 2008 at 3:12 pm
The Parliamentary Secretary for Social Inclusion and the Voluntary Sector, Senator Ursula Stephens, will consult with welfare groups in coming weeks following the announcement by the new Federal Labor Government to remove the ‘gagging’ clauses in contracts with the Not for Profit Sector.
The new Rudd Labour Government has moved quickly in its first months of office to remove the controversial clauses in contracts with Not for Profits – clauses that have silenced the sector from highlighting its problems and challenges.
The Rudd Government is expected to rewrite thousands of government contracts with the sector, deleting clauses that it says the Howard government used to gag its critics.
Under the Howard Government, advocacy efforts of the Not for Profit and volunteer sectors were silenced by reserving the right to censor their public statements in contracts for delivery of government-funded welfare services.
The areas most affected are the housing and welfare sectors.
Making the announcement Acting Prime Minister Julia Gillard said Labor would scrap the clauses in future contracts and review all existing agreements with a view to excising the gag clauses and reinstating freedom of speech.
Gillard says the new government believes that robust debate is the best way of making sure the right things get done and everybody’s voice is heard.
This has been an issue that ACOSS and it membership has been working on for sometime and which was covered in several meetings with Deputy Prime Minister Gillard and in ‘Future of the Sector Days’ held in conjunction with the ACOSS Conference.
ACOSS Executive Director Andrew Johnson says ACOSS congratulates the Labor Government’s attention to this issue early in its tenure, which signals a new era in recognising the independent voices and the experiences of the community sector, which will ultimately lead to better policy for low income and disadvantaged Australians.
The announcement recognises that in addition to providing vital services, the community sector plays an important role in speaking out for the interests of low income and disadvantaged Australians and ensuring their voices are heard by decision makers.
The community sector increases social inclusion by promoting an increased sense of community and social responsibility and educating the general public about issues confronting low income and disadvantaged Australians.
ACOSS says unwarranted criticism and risk of the loss of funding had created a climate of uncertainty under the previous Government which prevented some community organisations from commenting on policies and programs and releasing research on social issues.
ACOSS President Lin Hatfield Dodds says this initiative will encourage constructive and open debate that will ultimately lead to better policy solutions for the more than 1 in 10 Australians missing out on a fair go.