Former Victorian premier Jeff Kennett has written to Mathias Cormann, warning that the Turnbull government’s foreign donations bill will stifle public advocacy and put a “bureaucratic noose around the neck” of every charitable trust in Australia, The Australian reports.
The Liberal Party elder is chairman of Equity Trustees, which has responsibility for more than 500 charitable trusts that contribute about $70 million to thousands of not-for-profit organisations every year. The Electoral Funding Disclosure Reform Bill 2017 will require all organisations, including universities, charities and businesses, whose “political expenditure” in any of the past four years has exceeded $100,000, to register as a “political campaigner”.
Under the bill, organisations deemed political campaigners would have to demonstrate that every donation of $250 or more was not from a foreign citizen before that money could be considered as general revenue, in order to comply with a prohibition on foreign money funding political activity. Charities have warned that the bill will have a chilling effect on democratic debate, entangle them in red tape, and make Australia an unappealing destination for international philanthropy, including in areas such as medical research.
Mr Kennett said there was nothing in the legislation to protect estates from having their funds eaten up by the extra administration it will require.
He said the bill would erode the value of estates “substantially”, and undermine the flow of money that now flows to medical research, children’s hospitals, charities, schools, the arts and other worthy causes at no cost to the government.
Foreign donations bill a bureaucratic noose, says Jeff Kennett (The Australian)