Charities say new rules aim to ‘muzzle’ | Mandurah Courier
Australian charities facing tough new operating regulations say the restrictions are an attempt to politically “muzzle” their advocacy work.
The federal government is on the verge of imposing rules, which could cause charities to lose their tax-deductible donation status if their resources are deemed to support offenses such as trespassing or property damage.
The $ 100 billion sector is typically funded by donors who do not have to pay tax on the money they donate.
The rules will apply to charity staff and fundraising, as well as websites and social media.
An alliance of 77 organizations, including Amnesty International, Anglicare Australia, CARE Australia, Caritas Australia, Oxfam, The Fred Hollows Foundation and UnitingCare, published a full-page ad in a national newspaper on Thursday calling on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to drop out immediately the proposed settlement.
“This is astonishing excess of power in a democracy,” Save the Children CEO Paul Ronalds told AAP.
“The effect is to muzzle charities on politically sensitive issues.”
The rules will be implemented by regulation and are expected to be tabled in the Senate in a few days.
But deputy treasurer Michael Sukkar, who oversees charity regulator ACNC, says regulations are needed to ensure that activist organizations “masquerading as charities” will no longer be tolerated.
In a statement to the AAP, he said the regulator would take a “proportionate” approach to enforcement.
“Australians support charities through donations and tax breaks in the hope that charity resources will be directed to charity, not promoting or participating in illegal activities,” he said. -he declares.
Charity officials say the laws will allow them to be struck off for minor infractions such as staff blocking a trail during a public vigil or speaking or tweeting in support of a public protest.
The same fate could befall them if others used their material, such as a logo, at a protest where a minor offense was committed.
Minister Sukkar’s office on Thursday clarified that the rules targeted sustained illegal activity and would not result in unsubscribing from staff tweets.
Mr Ronalds argues that significant work would be needed to ensure that Save the Children ‘s 12,000 employees do not break the new regulations.
“Frankly, the minister does not understand what it takes to make sure that we comply with this,” he said.
Meanwhile, Oxfam Australia chief executive Lynn Morgain said the fight against change had taken desperately needed resources from the bushfire and pandemic relief work.
“The pandemic occurred locally following terrible bushfires; we were already facing multiple crises on several fronts, ”she said.
Ms. Morgain says similar restrictions do not apply in business or political sectors.
“The public expects charities to be able to speak out about the issues they are working on,” she told AAP.
In late 2019, ACNC revoked the charitable status of animal activist group Aussie Farms Inc.
The group has organized animal rights protests and its website lists sites it claims to be “animal exploitation facilities.”
It is no longer allowed to receive tax deductible donations.
There are nearly 60,000 registered charities in Australia.
Associated Australian Press