3 July 2021

Yet another attack on civil society by the Morrison Government: “The Australian government introduced new regulations last week that could have a major chilling effect across Australia’s diverse charities sector. The government’s aim was clear: the regulations are intended to target ‘activist organisations’, and specifically crack down on ‘unlawful behaviour’. Despite this rhetoric, there is no evidence unlawful behaviour by charities is a problem of any significance. By clamping down on charities in this way, the government is not only curtailing their ability to organise peaceful protests, it is imposing more unnecessary red tape on an already highly-regulated sector. The regulations would give the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) new powers to take action against a charity if it commits, or fails to adequately ensure its resources aren’t used to commit, certain types of ‘summary offences’. These are generally a less serious type of criminal offence, and can include acts such as trespassing, unlawful entry, malicious damage or vandalism. If the ACNC commissioner believes a charity is not complying with the regulations, they would be able to take enforcement action, which may include deregistering the charity. … In effect, the regulations mean that if a charity organised a protest in front of a government department and initially refused to leave, this could be considered trespassing. And this could then be grounds to have the charity deregistered. … [A] comprehensive review of the ACNC legislation commissioned by the government in 2018 did not identify any issues with unlawful behaviour by charities. In fact, the review recommended removing the ACNC’s existing power to take action against charities that commit serious breaches of the law. … Despite this, the new regulations would extend the reach of the ACNC and expand its existing powers even further.”

(In case you think the regulator would surely be reasonable in using its new power, remember its chairman is a greedy, pro-coal, racist eugenicist who has long been committed to removing charitable status from organisations that advocate on policy.)