Govt Formalises ‘No Gag Clauses’
5 March 2013 at 9:02 am
The Federal Government will introduce ‘no gag clause’ legislation into the Parliament in the next sitting in March – formalising a policy introduced under former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
The announcement of the legislation was made by the Minister for Finance and Deregulation, Senator Penny Wong during a major speech in Brisbane outlining the Federal Government’s ongoing support for the Not for Profit sector.
“I want to outline our plan to support the independence of the Not for Profit sector, to reduce red tape and to encourage stronger collaboration," Senator Wong said.
“This Labor Government recognises the value of the Not for Profit sector – and I personally have the deepest respect for the work your organisations do.
“We will introduce the Not for Profit Sector Freedom to Advocate Bill during the next sitting of Parliament. This Bill embodies a belief in freedom of speech. It is predicated on the principle that advocacy from the Not for Profit sector is important and should not be restricted.
“It will protect the voice of your sector, banning gag clauses from all Commonwealth contracts. It recognises and supports the independence of the Not for Profit sector and declares that your advocacy cannot be impinged upon by the Commonwealth.
"This Bill puts into Legislation what has been this Government's policy since 2008.
“When we came into office, we removed all gag clauses the Howard Government had imposed and, to my knowledge, no Commonwealth contracts containing gag clauses currently exist.
“Now, we are legislating to prevent any future government from taking this approach, and we are calling on all State Premiers and Territory Chief Ministers to do the same," Senator Wong said.
UnitingCare Australia’s National Director, Lin Hatfield Dodds said the Not For Profit Sector Freedom to Advocate Bill will ensure those organisations working at the coalface with some of the most vulnerable people in Australia, can contribute to and influence public policy debate without fear of compromising funding arrangements and other measures.
“The Federal Government’s National Compact which was announced five years ago, committed to working in genuine partnership with the Not for Profit sector,” Hatfield Dodds said.
“The legislation acknowledges the vital role of community sector organisations like UnitingCare – not just in the provision of vital services – but also in the development and implementation of measures that determine economic and social policy priorities. It recognises the importance of an independent sector and provides the foundation for strong community engagement in policy development.
“Gag clauses have been banned in all Commonwealth contracts. Historically organisations were prevented from engaging in public debate on issues central to their mission and services delivery.
“The Not For Profit Sector Freedom to Bill is a positive move and we call on the States and Territories to implement similar legislation.
“Reform is a long road and ongoing work will be needed to ensure better relationships across all levels of government – from Federal, to the States and Territories and to local governments – all of whom have a role to play in the suite of vital services needed to ensure a strong communities,” Hatfield Dodds said.