Senate debates

Thursday, 25 November 2021

Regulations and Determinations

Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Amendment (2021 Measures No. 2) Regulations 2021; Disallowance

3:56 pm

Photo of Deborah O'NeillDeborah O'Neill (NSW, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I'm proud to stand up to call for senators to vote to stop this attack on free speech in the charities sector. This is happening on the same day, the very same day, that Mr Morrison got up in the chamber at the other place, genuflected to religious freedom, and his Assistant Treasurer is busy smothering any attempt of religious charities to speak up against the government.

I acknowledge the great contributions of my colleague from Tasmania, Senator Bilyk, who put on the record the detail of this, and those who participated in the debate. I point out that the marriage equality campaign commenced with charity action and so did the NDIS. This is a government that talks out of two sides of its mouth, dog whistling to win votes and never delivering for the Australian people, only delivering for itself. I urge the Senate to vote for this disallowance. It is an unnecessary and drastic overreach that will prevent charities continuing the fantastic work that we know that they do.

The idea that in our common law system a charity could be deregistered merely on the suspicion a member of the organisation was committing a crime is totally outrageous. Extraordinarily, the ACNC Commissioner could deregister a charity that was neither charged nor found guilty of an offence. An entire charity such as Barnardo's Australia could be deregistered if just one of its staff or volunteers engaged in minor vandalism or trespassing, or if the charity cannot provide evidence to show it has taken reasonable steps to make sure resources are not used to promote or support unlawful contact.

This type of collective punishment of NGOs is more reminiscent of Lukashenko's Belarus or Orban's Hungary. It does not reflect the Australian proud tradition of democracy and civic benevolent action by people of faith and people of no faith who seek to do good for their fellow Australians, and do it collaboratively. Just like with the voter suppression bill, this is yet another attempt by the government to win the next election through tilting the scales in its favour. Not content with rorting every grant program in sight, they want to keep the charity sector silent and acquiescent in an election year.

This piece of regulation from the government is all about power and politics for them; it's not about good for the Australian people. The reason we're here is well and truly made clear by a submission of the Centre for Public Integrity, which says:

Through the delegation of law-making powers—

Which are the powers the government is using to put this really bad piece in action—

policy decisions that affect the rights and obligations of individuals, business and industry are increasingly being made by the Executive without adequate parliamentary oversight or other forms of accountability.

That's why we're here, trying to put the brakes on a runaway government that wants to take out the charities sector—the charity sector! It's not good enough to go after Australians for robodebt, not good enough to rort all the money through all the schemes—including the sports rorts, the car park rorts, the Building Better Regions rorts; now they want to go after the charities, who might in the future have a volunteer who might do something wrong. It is an overreach, and senators should vote against it.


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