Electoral Bill will muzzle charities and weaken democratic processes

1 February 2018 

The St Vincent de Paul Society National Council has condemned the Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform Bill 2017 in their submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters.

The submission contends that the Bill will “adversely affect many charities in both their charitable work and their public advocacy for the most vulnerable.” This will occur because of the burdensome administrative requirements that charities would face if they speak out on matters of public interest.

As a result, rather than enhancing the integrity of Australia’s electoral system, this Bill will erode confidence and weaken democratic processes by making it more difficult for charities to comment on issues of public concern to their beneficiaries.

Dr John Falzon, CEO of St Vincent de Paul National Council said “Charities play a crucial role in our society, not only in relieving distress, but also in making sure that the voices of the most excluded are heard by our elected representatives and policy makers.”

“Instead of silencing the voice of charities with red tape, we urge the Parliament to protect our ability to stand up for the interests of the communities we serve and the issues those communities care about.”

“When you sideline charities from public discussion, you silence the voices of those working with the most marginalised people, undermine policy making and ultimately erode our democracy.”

All charities involved in issues and policy advocacy – regardless of whether they receive foreign donations – are potentially affected by the Bill.

The Bill is ill-conceived because it attempts to solve a perceived problem of foreign influence in elections, by regulating charities. While some registered charities may receive foreign donations, existing laws already prevent them from using such donations to subvert the electoral system or to campaign for particular political candidates or parties.

 

MEDIA CONTACT: Len Baglow 0400 845 492 or media@svdp.org.au