Protecting the Rights of Charities

With Labor, I took a policy of significant donation reform to the 2016 Federal election, which would have introduced legislation into the Parliament that would significantly improve the transparency and accountability of our donation laws.
Labor’s reforms would:
  • Reduce the donation disclosure limit from the current level of $13,500 (indexed to inflation) to a fixed $1000.
  • Prohibit the receipt of foreign donations.
  • Ban ‘donation splitting’ where donations are spread between different branches of political parties and associated entities to avoid disclosure obligations.
  • Ban the receipt of anonymous donations above $50.
  • Link public funding to campaign expenditure.
  • Introduce new offences and increased penalties for abuses of the political donation disclosure regime.
In contrast, the Liberal party has been responsible for an increased disclosure threshold and reduced transparency.
From Labor’s perspective, we recognise concerns voiced by the not for profit sector with respect to this legislation.
The charity sector is among the most trusted in Australia, and the Australian public overwhelmingly supports the right of charities to advocate and express opinion on government policy.
We recognise there are fundamental differences between the role of charities in our political and policy debates and the roles played by political parties and their associated entities.
We are hopeful that robust constraints on foreign influence on our political process can be achieved without unnecessarily stifling the voice of charities that do great work in our area and further marginalising the people in our community who they speak out for.
The charitable sector faces significant challenges, as social changes decrease the share of the population who join, volunteer and donate. Our hard-working charity sector needs a government that works with them, not against them.
I am particularly concerned about the barriers the proposed legislation could create for some legitimate forms of public support for groups undertaking public advocacy. For example, through the overly burdensome compliance regimes the bill would impose on organisations who rely on public support in the form of financial donations.
With my Labor colleagues, I am pushing for detailed briefings on the proposed legislation and the measures proposed. I will continue to work with Labor to pursue reforms consistent with our long-standing policy objectives of improving the transparency and accountability of Australia’s political donations system.