Federal Assistant Treasurer, Michael Sukkar, is expected to introduce a proposal to amend Governance Standard 3 of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Regulations 2013, to parliament on August 3.
Charities have described these proposed Morrison Government changes as “alarming” and having the capability to “silence every one of the 59,000 charities in Australia… and hamper charities’ abilities to protect the most vulnerable communities and the environment”. One such charity, ActionAid, has joined forces with another 69 to resist this proposed change.
“Charities all over Australia play an important role in assisting communities and keeping people safe, which has been critical through the COVID-19 pandemic,” ActionAid says. “Yet proposed amendments give the Charities Commissioner unprecedented powers to deregister charities for the most minor of offences, like blocking a footpath at a public vigil, or even offences he believes may occur in the future,” it says. “These laws are designed to undermine the ability of charities to speak out on behalf of the people we serve and hold the government accountable. This is essential in a healthy democracy.
“For ActionAid, it would severely restrict our ability to campaign in support of the women we work with overseas. “That’s why we’ve joined an alliance of more than 70 respected Australian charities to oppose these proposed amendments. Together we aim to show the Government that there is widespread opposition to these proposed laws.”
ActionAid is calling for public assistance to oppose these changes by asking as many people as possible to write to their local MP before August 3.
“No laws like this exist for companies or political parties. For example, political parties cannot be deregistered because a member accidentally damages someone’s lawn when they put up a sign. “But under these laws, charities could be deregistered. “The laws would also place a huge administrative burden on charities to comply with the laws, diverting critical resources away from supporting communities and the environment. “Lawyers have labelled the proposed amendments as unjustified and detrimental to our democracy. Even the Charities Commissioner himself, Gary Johns, has said that he sees no evidence that they are necessary. “Being able to speak up and mobilise in support of the women we work with overseas is critical to ActionAid Australia realising its vision of a world where all women can live with dignity and freedom from all forms of oppression.”