It has been over 18 months since Bill Shorten first introduced legislation to ban foreign donations, and Scott Morrison’s Government are yet to take this reform seriously.
Labor has taken action, and I fully support our decision not to take foreign donations, but this Liberal Government just continues to keep taking foreign money.
Instead, they have thrown up a smokescreen by trying to drag everyday charities, not-for-profits and community advocates into their badly planned scheme, holding the free speech of community advocates hostage instead of making any real progress on donation reform.
We in Labor have not only acted by refusing to take foreign donations, we have also worked to make sure that representatives of civil society – voices the government had sidelined and dismissed – knew their concerns were being taken seriously.
We joined with charities and not-for-profits to inform the Australian public of the kinds of activities the Government’s plans were putting in jeopardy.
Critical work on homelessness, indigenous disadvantage, domestic violence and conservation would have been sidelined through the Government’s attempt to stifle legitimate advocacy.
My Labor colleagues and I have said all along that we can ban foreign donations to political parties without hurting our local charities and not-for-profits.
I spent months alongside Labor advocating for our charities, with no response from the Liberal Government. This is despite the bipartisan Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters recommending changes that would protect charities and minimise the impact of the Morrison Government’s legislation.
The Government should respond to these recommendations so we can work towards finally banning foreign donations. If they refuse, we have made it clear that we will amend the Government’s legislation to protect the important work of the charities and not-for-profits sector, and that we support the guiding principles recently set out by the sector.
We know foreign donations can be stopped without hurting charities.
For a strong civil society, we need to hear from as many voices as possible, and we need to ensure that our political system is not being shaped by big money from foreign interests.
Banning foreign donations to political parties should never have been tied to constraints on free speech.
I will always support Australia’s charities and not-for-profits.