Only One in Five Australians Favour Proposed Limits on Charitable Advocacy
7 February 2018 at 5:35 pm
Only one in five Australians support the Turnbull government’s proposed measures to restrict charitable advocacy, including just 36 per cent of Coalition supporters, according to a new poll.
The Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform Bill 2017 aims to block donations by foreign entities attempting to influence Australian politics.
But the charity sector has strongly pushed to re-draft the bill, fearing it will curtail its ability to advocate on social issues.
In response, the Fred Hollows Foundation commissioned polling for the Hands Off Our Charities alliance to gauge the public’s opinion on the legislation and on charity advocacy.
YouGov Galaxy polled a nationally representative sample of 1,008 Australian residents between 29 January and 1 February 2018.
The poll found that less than one in five Australians believed charities took one-sided, political positions with their advocacy.
Despite it being a coalition policy, more than half (53 per cent) of coalition supporters said they believed Australian charities played a vital role in highlighting social issues to government.
Coalition supporters were also broadly against the proposed move to limit charitable advocacy, with only 36 per cent of supporters in favour of the legislation, along with just 14 per cent of Labor supporters and 12 per cent of Greens supporters.
Overall, only 20 per cent of respondents supported the proposed measures.
Fred Hollows Foundation director of public affairs Nick Martin, told Pro Bono News that these results highlighted the public’s support for charitable advocacy.
“What it showed is that people do see charities speaking out on key matters of public policy as very important for a vibrant democracy and for seeing issues that otherwise might not be considered by government or our political leaders,” Martin said.
“What’s also clear from the results is that people have a lot of trust and faith in charities’ work. The findings showed the Australian public does not agree that charities are one sided and rather they think charities are non-partisan and conduct their work fairly to all governments and all political actors.
“So any inference that charities might be partisan in one way or another was rejected in the research.”
Martin said the government should be taking “a good, hard look at the laws as they are [currently] drafted”.
“Whatever the intention of the drafters, the bills they’ve put before parliament go much further and would seriously restrict the ability of charities to legitimately do their work,” he said.
“Our view is that the laws the bill presents should be scrapped and they should be completely redrafted to meet the stated objectives the government put forward. The impact of the bill would be absolutely devastating for every charity in Australia.
“What we hope is that the government pays attention to the number of charities and other stakeholders who have raised their concerns about this. [Some] really important constituents in Australia are voicing their opposition right now through this survey and other means.”
Marc Purcell, the CEO of the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) said the bill would “fundamentally alter how Australians participate in our democracy”.
“There is widespread opposition to this bill from every corner of Australian society. Australians support charities having a strong voice and believe they play a vital role in our democracy,” Purcell said.
“It’s clear that Australians think we would be a poorer place if we started down the dangerous path of silencing communities.
“This bill will bring in new harsh civil and criminal penalties, an increased red-tape burden, restrictions on funding sources and places a burden on everyday Australians making a charitable donation. We fear charities will stop advocating and contributing to public debate.”
These findings come as a recent Pro Bono Australia survey of the charity sector found more than two thirds (63 per cent) of respondents were unclear on how the bill would affect their charity.
A total of 79 per cent said they were concerned by the new obligations, while 96 per cent said their charity or not for profit had not been consulted by the government on the draft bill.
A parliamentary inquiry into the bill is currently underway with a report due by 2 March 2018.