Submission to JSCEM - Inquiry into the Electoral Legislation Amendment (Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform) Bill 2017
This submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters outlines key areas of concern for the Community Council for Australia (CCA) in relation to changes to the Electoral Legislation Amendment (Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform) Bill 2017.
CCA is particularly concerned by the way this Bill enables any charity engaging in advocating for a charitable purpose to be deemed a political actor. Combined with onerous new administrative requirements and restrictions on who can donate and for what purpose, the proposed Bill will have a major negative impact on charities, their advocacy, and their capacity to achieve their charitable purpose.
CCA believes the current system of influence and power in national politics often favours the most economic powerful who benefit economically from certain policies. These policies may or may not be in the broader public interest. This bias towards the most powerful having more input into public policy is partly facilitated through political donations, but mostly operates outside of disclosure regimes.
Charities advocating policies that will benefit their communities are often at a major disadvantage against very strong and powerful economic interests.
CCA supports increased transparency and moves to ensure public policy is primarily informed by public rather than private interest, but the charities sector is already well regulated and accountable.
The proposed measures in this Bill will strangle charities in more red tape, further diminishing the capacity of charities to serve their charitable purpose and be active participants in the formation of public policy.
Given the limitations already applying to charities through regulations and the work of the ACNC, CCA believes charities should be treated separately from vested interest groups that currently operate without any restrictions and are able to apply economic and political pressure on the public policy process.