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Charities must remain free to advocate

Date published: Monday 17 July 2017

Category(ies): Media release

The peak body representing Baptist community service organisations has opposed proposed regulation of charities’ advocacy work in a recent Treasury discussion paper.

“Some of the proposed reforms in the discussion paper to streamline administration of the tax deductible donation system are quite sensible. But proposals to regulate how charities raise their voices for change in a democratic society should be rejected out of hand,” said Marcia Balzer, Executive Director of Baptist Care Australia.

The discussion paper proposals include:

  • requiring charities to report annually on their advocacy activities
  • requiring environmental charities to commit no less than 25 per cent of their annual expenditure to environmental remediation activities (and not advocacy).

“Baptist Care Australia is very concerned about the government trying to restrict how charities advocate for the causes their donors support.

“If you’re trying to build a better Australia, you need to be able to address the root cause of a problem, as well as deal with the results of that problem. That takes advocacy – in all its forms – and it’s an absolutely essential part of a charity’s work,” Ms Balzer said.

“There has been recent media coverage of environmental organisations already being asked by the Government to report their expenditure on different activities, including advocacy.

“This is problematic for several reasons, but one relates to the legislation we all abide by. All charities are governed by the same laws, whether they are environmental charities or not.

“Those laws are clear that charities are in the best position to decide how to achieve their charitable purpose. They need to make decisions about their activities without additional reporting, oversight or regulations that take valuable time and energy away from the cause.

“The Community Council of Australia has taken issue with the discussion paper’s assumption that charities are a drain on the public purse, instead of providers of essential social services known for  efficiency and effectiveness.

“While no doubt there’s always room for improvement, the Australian Charities and Not-for-profit Commission (ACNC) is fulfilling its regulatory role very well, ensuring that charities are transparent and accountable to the community.

“The Australian Taxation Office and the ACNC already have the powers they need to de-register and otherwise regulate charities that don’t meet their obligations.

“Further regulation is unnecessary, and it should absolutely not hamper the ability of charities to advocate for positive change,” Ms Balzer said.


Read Baptist Care Australia’s submission to Treasury’s discussion paper, Tax deductible gift recipient reform opportunities

The Baptist Care Australia network serves people in aged care, affected by family violence and homelessness, on low incomes, experiencing relationship breakdown, and affected by multigenerational disadvantage. Member organisations have an annual turnover of more than $700 million, employ more than 9000 staff and engage more than 2500 volunteers each year. Baptist Care Australia draws on the policy and operational expertise of members to advocate on issues such as, social housing and homelessness, inequality and disadvantage, disability services, aged care, children and youth, and domestic and family violence.

Media inquiries: Marcia Balzer, Executive Director, 0430 175 310,