Have Your Say: Will You Be Impacted By The Proposed Foreign Donations Bill?
25 January 2018 at 8:55 am
A new short survey has been launched to better understand how charities feel they could be affected by the proposed foreign donations bill.
According to the government The Electoral Legislation Amendment (Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform) Bill 2017, which was introduced to the Senate in December, is necessary to block donations by foreign entities attempting to influence Australian electoral outcomes.
The bill proposes a range of reforms including: a registration regime for third party campaigners who incur political expenditure and the establishment of such a register; clarifying the definition of “associated entities”; restrictions on foreign political donations; and limiting public election funding to demonstrated electoral spending.
However the bill has attracted widespread criticism regarding its impact on the ability of charities to undertake and fund their advocacy work, amidst claims it could erode democracy and “have a chilling effect”.
Some community organisations have also argued the new bill imposes significant administrative burden, duplicates reporting requirements and has severe enforcement provisions.
However it remains unclear how many charities are likely to be affected.
With submissions to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters set to close on Thursday, Pro Bono Australia has launched a poll to ask our readers to what extent they feel they could be impacted.
Pro Bono Australia founder and CEO Karen Mahlab AM said under the new law it was possible many of Australia’s charities would be classified as “political campaigners”, which could have a significant impact on the work they did.
“We believe that many charities are unaware of the proposed bill’s impact,” Mahlab said.
“The language of the bill is such that it encompasses a whole array of activities undertaken by charities, that many would currently consider as advocating for positive change, being re-labelled as ‘political expenditure’ and therefore carrying a whole raft of restrictions and obligations not seen before.
“We believe far more charities could be caught up by the legislation than first thought.
“We encourage our readers to spend just two minutes answering this survey so we can once again take the temperature of the sector on an issue of importance to them and try and get a sense of the scale of the ramifications the sector could be facing should the bill go ahead.”
The latest short survey, builds on the recent findings from the Civil Voices report, published by Pro Bono Australia in collaboration with the Human Rights Law Centre, that found charities in Australia were self-silencing.
Take the two-minute survey here.
If you are unsure what the proposed changes mean, read our explainer from Prolegis Lawyers principal Seak-King Huang, here.