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Labor defends decision to support political campaigners bill

2 December 2021 at 5:12 pm
Wendy Williams
Should Labor be elected, Dr Andrew Leigh confirms they would revisit the framework

Wendy Williams | 2 December 2021 at 5:12 pm


Labor defends decision to support political campaigners bill
2 December 2021 at 5:12 pm

Should Labor be elected, Dr Andrew Leigh confirms they would revisit the framework

Labor has defended its decision to work with the government to pass the political campaigners bill in exchange for taking the voter ID bill off the table. 

Andrew Leigh, the shadow assistant minister for charities, told Pro Bono News that while he had significant concerns about the bill, he believed it was the best outcome for the charities sector under the circumstances.

The bill, which lowers the threshold for entities such as charities to disclose political spending, passed the upper house on Wednesday, leaving charities angry and disappointed.

Australian Conservation Foundation CEO Kelly O’Shanassy said the legislation “unfairly and incorrectly conflates advocacy with running for political office”. 

“As it reduces the expenditure threshold and applies it retrospectively, ACF and other organisations will now be assigned to this onerous category for past lawful, non-partisan activities,” O’Shanassy said. 

“In my time as CEO of the Australian Conservation Foundation, I have not seen another piece of legislation that has the potential to so severely muffle community voices as this one.”

Australian Democracy Network executive director Saffron Zomer said it was disappointing to see the Labor Party support these changes. 

“The charity sector is in shock,” she said.

But Leigh argued the government had the numbers to pass both the voter ID laws and the political campaigner law. 

He disputed comments made by Centre Alliance senator Stirling Griff, that with the help of the Senate crossbench Labor could have blocked both the voter ID and political campaigner bills.

He said by coming to the table, Labor was able to negotiate a number of amendments including raising the electoral expenditure threshold to $250,000 – rather than the $100,000 threshold proposed by the government – and changing the name of “political campaigner” to “significant third party”.

Leigh said these changes meant fewer small charities would be caught up by the bill.

“The amendments we’ve secured are the best achievable outcome for charities,” he said.

He confirmed should Labor be elected, they would revisit the framework.



But the sector remains disappointed. 

ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said the process with these reforms demonstrated “exactly how legislation should not be made”.

“This is a bill that’s meant to be about transparency, yet there has been none. There has been inadequate scrutiny and consultation,” Goldie said.

“We are deeply concerned that this legislation could stifle the voices of community services and prevent them from advocating for the much-needed changes to ensure people with greatest need are front and centre in the work of government and the parliament.”

Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.

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