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Liberals and Labor conspire to silence charities

Media Release
Larissa Waters 1 Dec 2021

Labor has signed on to the government’s anti-democracy agenda by voting for new legislation designed to silence critical voices from the nonprofit sector.

The Electoral Legislation Amendment (Political Campaigner) Bill was rammed through the Senate tonight without debate and without going to inquiry, passing after a dirty deal between Labor and the Liberals. 

The new laws will mean that more nonprofits will now be classified as “large third parties”, increasing their disclosure requirements and administrative burdens.  More charities will spend more time on paperwork and less time advocating for public interest policy reforms. Many will be discouraged from advocacy work altogether.

Greens deputy leader and spokesperson on democracy Senator Larissa Waters said:

“This bill is not about transparency and accountability. It’s not about the integrity of elections. This bill will undermine charities and the right to advocate for change.

“It’s always been about shutting critical voices out of the election debate by tying them up in bureaucracy. Whatever happened to the Liberals hating red tape?

“That’s why over 80 charities joined together to call on the government to scrap this bill. And it’s why the government has ignored them.

“Charities are already subject to strict reporting and transparency obligations under the ACNC. There is no justification for the additional reporting that a lower threshold would impose on the many organisations already struggling to make ends meet.

“This is a cynical stitch-up between the government and Labor. We're glad to see the back of the voter ID laws but secretly trading one legislative outcome for another is not how democracy is supposed to work.

“Labor is of course patting itself on the back for getting some amendments through, but the changes do little more than make terrible legislation marginally less terrible. They don’t deserve a cookie for that.

“If this government was serious about transparency during elections, they would ban dirty donations, immediately lower the donation disclosure thresholds and require real-time reporting.

“And if they were serious about accountability and inappropriate influence, we would not have been waiting more than 1080 days for a national integrity commission.

“This is a kick in the teeth to a sector that needs more support, not more roadblocks. The Greens will continue to stand up for charities who advocate for policy reforms.”

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