Charities worried about foreign crackdown
“If politicians are trying to shut down the voice of charities…they’re out of touch.”
Charities fear a federal government crackdown on foreign political donations will impact their ability to receive international financial support.
Despite not yet seeing legislation, a group of charities travelled to Canberra on Monday to lobby politicians about the slated bill.
The group including Oxfam, Amnesty, Caritas and Care worry those who receive money from overseas will be unable to advocate on issues under the government’s plan to prevent foreign parties from influencing Australian elections through donations.
They want an exemption for any charity registered in Australia and already overseen by the regulator.
Community Council of Australia CEO David Crosbie said if politicians were trying to shut down the voice of charities during elections it shows they’re out of touch.
“No matter how you do this legislation you are going to be putting pressure on charities to in some way audit their sources of income and audit their activities,” he told reporters.
Already in the UK and Canada similar laws have had a “chilling” impact on the voices of charities.
There was no example now of foreign influence through charities in Australia.
“If you have some kind of scenario where the Chinese government is going to take over a local charity housing group and have them campaigning around Chinese foreign policy you’ve got to be kidding yourselves,” Crosbie said.
Registered charities, already overseen by a regulator, cannot provide donations to political parties or hand out how-to-vote cards.
“In terms of what the government is trying to do I honestly don’t know. I don’t know where the mischief is,” Mr Crosbie said.
“If the mischief is charities advocate for their causes and their communities then thank god for that.”
Labor agrees with the government on the need to ban foreign political donations, but the charities say the opposition is on their side, in principle, when it comes to exemptions.