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This new bill threatens Aussie charities – here’s what you can do

Australian charities and NFPs speak up for many of those who don’t otherwise get a voice in Australian political debate.

Refugees, people experiencing homelessness, animals, people experiencing ill health (mental or physical), the environment – if Australian NFPs couldn’t advocate on their behalf, how much poorer and meaner would our society be?

Sadly, new legislation from the Turnbull government means it’s not something you actually have to imagine – it might soon be a reality.

Why are not-for-profits under threat?

In a bill designed to prevent international influence in Australian politics, the government has sought to ban “foreign sources, persons, entities and foreign-owned subsidiaries to political parties, associated entities and other third parties and entities undertaking campaign activities” from making donations to domestic political parties, unions and politically active interest groups.

But critics believe it will effectively silence many Australian charities, threatening their ability to speak up for and support our community’s most vulnerable.

That’s because the proposed legislation – the “Electoral Legislation Amendment (Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform) Bill 2017”– seeks to more broadly ban or strictly limit the receipt of donations for the purpose of campaigning and advocacy.

Under particular threat are NFPs that actively advocate for any change in government policy, with changes trying to place new constraints and regulation on public comment and advocacy by charities.

The bill would also force small donors – those giving as little as $5 a week – to get a statutory declaration signed by a Justice of the Peace – to declare they are an “allowable donor”. This would create a huge hurdle to people making donations like these, depriving charities of a huge part of their income.

The legislation has been named as a threat to our democracy itself by the United Nations Special Rapporteur who called its potential effects “chilling”.

The campaign to save charities

A group of 18 Australian charities including Oxfam and the Australian Conservation Foundation have launched campaign called Hands Off Our Charities, demanding the Labor opposition oppose the legislation in light of its devastating impact on not-for-profits and the communities they support.

And according to Hands Off Our Charities, things that matter to all of us are at stake, like essential funds for life-saving medical research, much-needed access to education, the rights of Indigenous Australians, and our shared natural environment – to name a few.

What you can do to help

Visit the Hands Off Our Charities site and send an email to say ‘hands off’ – it only takes a minute to add your name to the chorus of people demanding the bill isn’t passed.

The government can only be successful at doing something as outrageous as this if it thinks people won’t notice or don’t care. We can show them that isn’t the case.

Restricting advocacy by charities places at risk countless vulnerable people who rely on NFPs. Together, lets stop the ban in its tracks!

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