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Byron Shire
February 25, 2021

Charities to be silenced

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The foreign donations bill making its way through federal parliament to, one hopes, provide ‘some’ transparency to foreign donations has been so broadly written as to have some of the ramifications below if the third stage passes.

In a recent article, by Tim Flannery from the Climate Council notes that the bills are ‘nefarious and far-reaching in their impact’. He adds: ‘In a last-minute breakthrough, charities received an exemption from one of the three Bills that were threatening our day-to-day operations – the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Bill’. Then, ‘At the same time, the Espionage and Foreign Interference Bill was passed, without any such exemptions for charities, resulting in chilling outcomes. This could impact on the Climate Council’s ability to hold the government to account. For example, if charities alleged that the Australian government was downplaying the impact that a domestic policy would have on Australia’s emissions reductions targets, and it was reported to the international media, the charity could face charges of espionage’.

The final Bill, also known as the Foreign Donations Bill (or Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform), is set to come before parliament in the coming weeks. And this Bill could pose the biggest threat yet.

If passed, this Bill could:

• Silence charities that speak out on potential election issues – such as climate change and energy – and enforce complex regulations.

• Impose burdensome administrative paperwork. For example, if you chipped in just $4.80 per week, you would need to complete a statutory declaration to prove you’re an Australian citizen. This would make it near impossible for us to sustain funding from our community.

• Expose charities to draconian penalties for not complying, including up to 10 years’ imprisonment and civil penalties of up to $210,000.

There’s still time to let your politician know that you support an independent voice for climate science, backed by a strong and robust democracy. The Bill goes against our democratic principles in Australia.

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