Australian charities condemn new laws that threaten to shut them down

Australian charities condemned laws

Australian charities have condemned new Morrison Government laws that will target and potentially shut them down for advocating on behalf of their communities.

Amendments to the Australian Charities and Not-for-profit Commission (ACNC) Regulations tabled by the government give the Charities Commissioner discretion to deregister a charity for minor offences.

Under the new laws, charities could even be deregistered for speaking or tweeting in support of a public demonstration, or if others use their materials, such as a logo.

Alice Drury, a senior lawyer at the Human Rights Law Centre, said the government’s proposal would “silence important advocacy by Australian charities.”

“This treatment of charities is punitive and unprecedented – no business or political party faces deregistration for minor breaches of the law,” Drury said.

“Nor are other entities pre-emptively punished because of what the regulator thinks they might do in the future.”

The assistant treasurer, Michael Sukkar, said the nation’s 59,000 registered charities performed exceptional work supporting society’s most vulnerable.

But the new governance standards “[ensure] charities that misuse and take advantage of their status to take part in or actively promote illegal activity can be stripped of tax concessions and other benefits.”

The government argues the regulations “do not impose a new burden on charities that are already complying with Australian laws.”

It says charities “will still be able to participate in advocacy activities provided they are consistent with their charitable purpose and conducted lawfully.”

The opposition’s spokesperson for charities, Andrew Leigh, said the Coalition had “waged a war on charities” over the past eight years. This included a failed past attempt to scrap the charities commission altogether.

Leigh said the Coalition wanted charities to be “seen and not heard”.

“When the government first introduced these governance changes, they claimed they were cracking down on criminals masquerading as activist charities,” Leigh said.

“Yet in the past four years, just two out of 59,000 charities have been disqualified for breaking the law. There is no charity crime wave that needs an urgent solution.”

Leigh said charities that broke the law could already be deregistered. The new regulation “merely gives Liberals a new set of tools to shut down dissenting voices”.


The Guardian


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