I’m a member of GetUp, the organisation based entirely on donations and supporters to advocate for climate change mitigation, for example, to disseminate information and protest if necessary against seriously harmful issues, such as the Adani coal mine in Qld, among many other issues. I donate a small amount each week. The nasty right wing Turnbull government has come up with new legislation which could jail me for up to 10 years if I don’t get a legal document, renewable annually, to donate the amount I do.
The text below is from GetUp and I reproduce it here to warn you of the dark forces at work in this government. Suppression of dissent is one of the hallmarks of right wing governments. This government has been moving more toward authoritarianism for some time. The Electoral Legislation Amendment (Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform) Bill 2017 must be blocked and I have written to the WA Labor senators asking Labor to block this bill.
The legislation that the Turnbull Government is trying to pass (the Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform Bill) undermines our democracy by:
- Creating an unfair playing field in lobbying and advocacy. Civil society and charities are gagged while multinational corporations continue to have a free reign to spend up big buying political influence.
- Creating an illegitimate restriction on international philanthropy. Some issues are global. Climate change and infectious disease are borderless – and human rights are a universal concern. It’s perfectly legitimate for individuals or philanthropic foundations based outside of Australia to contribute to organisations inside Australia working to address these important issues. This legislation would prevent that. The Bill would also have a chilling effect on free political speech by forcing organisations to choose between international funding or political advocacy, with vague definitions of what constitutes advocacy, and harsh penalties (including up to 10 years in prison!) for getting it wrong.
- Attacking our fundamental democratic freedoms. The “GetUp clause” would rob GetUp members of their political independence by forcing GetUp to formally affiliate with one or more political parties, simply because of perceived policy similarities or shared campaign priorities. This is an attack on the right of GetUp members to engage in public discourse independent of any political party.
- Imposing significant compliance costs on charities. It forces charities to spend more of the donations they receive on administration rather than on the people they serve.
- Creating dangerous new subcategories for political campaigners and third party campaigners which creates two tiers of charities and paves the way for future draconian regulation.
- Gutting funding for small parties and campaigning organisations. The Bill forces donors to small parties and campaigning orgs to prove that their contributions are “allowable”, by providing a statutory declaration stating that they are a citizen or permanent resident, if their contributions exceed $250 in a single year. This would capture people who donate as little as $4.80 per week. The penalties for not complying with this unreasonable regulation are excessive, involving massive fines and jail terms comparable to offences like arms trafficking. This would effectively gut funding for organisations that rely on large numbers of small donations,and would further advantage large donors and massive corporations.
The bottom line is that the Bill will do nothing to fix the problems it is supposed to – while massively restricting the ability of ordinary citizens to participate in democracy and have a voice in Australian politics. Worse, the problematic features of the Bill are so deeply embedded in its drafting that they can’t be amended out of it. The Bill is fundamentally anti-democratic and must be rejected outright.