Call for further improvements to proposed laws on charity advocacy

Call for further improvements to proposed laws on charity advocacy

The Human Rights Law Centre welcomed new changes to proposed electoral laws that had originally threatened to shut charities out of public policy debates, yet called for further improvements in a submission to a Parliamentary inquiry.

"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 at the Human Rights Law Centre.

In its submission this week to the Australian Parliament’s electoral committee, the Human Rights Law Centre highlighted changes needed to improve the bill including by providing greater clarity around compliance obligations and by removing the requirement for some organisations to disclose the political party membership of senior staff.

“It would set a dangerous precedent for government to force some organisations to disclose the party membership of senior staff. This unnecessary and unjustified requirement should be removed,” said Mr de Kretser.

The Australian Government introduced the original bill in December 2017 purportedly to address foreign influence in elections. The badly drafted bill would have stifled public advocacy by charities and other community groups. In response to strong criticism and bipartisan electoral committee recommendations to fix problems in the bill, the Government recently released new changes.

“The original bill was incoherent, unworkable and a major threat to our democracy. The new changes, while not perfect, are positive. We now have a chance to further strengthen the bill,” said Mr de Kretser.

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

 For interviews call:

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