Labor knows that the charity sector is among the most trusted in Australia, and the Australian public overwhelmingly supports the right of charities to advocate on policy.
If the government cared about charities as much as the Australian people do, they would get on with fixing fundraising, removing duplicate reporting requirements, and strengthening the charities commission.
Instead, the Liberals have been waging war on the charities sector. For five years, they campaigned to scrap the charities commission, a body recommended by more than a dozen independent inquiries, and supported by four out of five charities.
The Liberals’ attacks on the charities commission have already sparked two open letters of protest from the sector. Many in the Liberal Party want to stop environmental charities from advocating on policy, and now the Liberals want to hamper charities that receive overseas donations.
Labor recognises 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 Australian charities and further marginalising the communities they speak out for.
While the Coalition is waging war on charities, Labor is getting on with the job of engaging with this important sector.
• Bill Shorten has created a portfolio of Shadow Minister for Charities and Not-for-Profits: the first time this important sector has been appropriately recognised on the Labor frontbench.
• Labor is working with states and territories to encourage them to cooperate with the charities commission, so that our voluntary sector can spend less time doing paperwork.
• Labor supports the campaign to fix fundraising - moving from a patchwork of state-based laws into a uniform national scheme, operating within the Australian Consumer Law.
• Labor has conducted nine “Reconnected Forums” across Australia, bringing together more than 1000 charities in total to explore new approaches to boosting community engagement.
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.
The Liberals must cease their war on charities and start backing the organisations that are trying to make the world a better place.
For more detail on Labor’s support for the charities sector, you may be interested in an opinion piece written by Andrew Leigh, our Shadow Minister for Charities and Not-for-Profits which is available here: http://www.andrewleigh.com/the_coalition_s_very_uncharitable_move_oped_the_age