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Charities speak out on ‘stifling’ new laws

Charities have hit out at the government and Labor for pushing through laws they say will “muffle” them at election times.

Labor amendments were criticised as not going far enough, with larger charities to still need to register as significant third parties, increasing their disclosure requirements and administrative burdens.

Expenditure thresholds of $250,000 will be applied retroactively, meaning charities like the Australian Conservation Foundation that engage in some forms of political advocacy will be affected.

Chief Executive Officer Kelly O’Shanassy said the legislation “unfairly and incorrectly conflates advocacy with running for political office”.

“I have not seen another piece of legislation that has the potential to so severely muffle community voices as this one,” she said.

“As it reduces the expenditure threshold and applies it retrospectively, ACF and other organisations will now be assigned to this onerous category for past lawful, non-partisan activities.”

The head of the Australian Council of Social Services, Cassandra Goldie, said Australians benefited when charities were able to advocate for policy reform without further burdens.

“We are deeply concerned that this legislation will stifle the voices of community services and prevent them from advocating for the much needed changes to ensure people with greatest need are front and centre,” she said.

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