Charity advocacy laws still need improvement

Charity advocacy laws still need improvement

The Human Rights Law Centre welcomed changes recommended by a Parliamentary Committee into proposed national electoral laws, which are a further step towards rolling back proposed legislation that would have stifled vital public advocacy by charities.

"Charities have enormous expertise to contribute, drawn from the work they do, whether it’s running a homeless shelter, addressing family violence or protecting the environment. When you sideline charities from public discussion, you silence the voices of marginalised people, undermine good law making and harm our democracy," said Hugh de Kretser, Executive Director of the Human Rights Law Centre Executive Director.

In December 2017, the Turnbull Government introduced a badly flawed bill, purportedly to address foreign influence in elections that would have stifled public advocacy by charities and other community groups. There was an outpouring of opposition to the reforms from charities, community groups, business groups, academics and more.

In September 2018, the Government proposed changes to address concerns. The Parliamentary Committee tasked with reviewing those changes released a report on Monday that accepts many of HRLC’s recommendations regarding lingering problems with the bill. The worst aspects of the original bill will be avoided if these recommendations are adopted.

However there is still room for improvement. Significant ambiguity in the definition of what counts as election expenditure remains, leaving charities and community groups uncertain as to how to comply. HRLC is also concerned that the Bill seeks to override State electoral laws, which in many cases are more transparent than at Federal level.   

The Human Rights Law Centre’s submission on the original bill is here and our explainer on the original bill is here.

The HRLC’s submission on the September changes is here.

For interviews and media enquiries please call:

Michelle Bennett, Director of Communications, Human Rights Law Centre, 0419 100 519