Australian charities appeal to UN over advocacy bans

Australian charities United Nations

A coalition of Australian charities has appealed to the United Nations after a row with the federal government over new regulations they say are a bid to silence them.

A group of 12 charities have written to UN special rapporteurs warning they risk losing their tax-deductible donation status under new rules.

Under the planned changes, charities could be deregistered for organising, promoting or having a presence at peaceful assemblies where minor offences are committed or where they fail to meet restrictive rules.

Organisations including the St Vincent de Paul Society, Amnesty International, Oxfam and the Australian Council of Social Service signed the letter. They are seeking to block new regulations for the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission.

Human Rights Law Centre senior lawyer Alice Drury said urgent action was needed from overseas.

“These rules would silence charities at a time when their advocacy is more crucial than ever, as charities support Australian communities through unprecedented crises like catastrophic bushfires and the pandemic,” she said.

“These proposed laws are a case of extreme overreach and have no place in a democracy.”

“The most important social changes, like women winning the right to vote, First Australians being classified as people instead of fauna, the five-day working week, are all rights fought for with people power,” said Sam Klintworth, director of the Amnesty International Australia.

“The idea that peaceful protest could lead to organisations like Amnesty being unregistered is unthinkable in a country that prides itself on giving everyone a fair go.”

Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar, who oversees the charity regulator Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, has said that the regulations are needed to ensure activist organisations “masquerading as charities” will no longer be tolerated.

“Australians support charities through donations and tax concessions with the expectation that charities’ resources are directed towards charitable works. But, not the promotion of or participation in unlawful activities,” he said.

Sukkar’s office said the rules are aimed at sustained illegal activity and would not result in deregistration for staff tweets.

There are about 56,000 registered charities across Australia.


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