Antinuclear

Australian news, and some related international items

Australian government helps business lobbies, while punishing charities

Business lobbies get free rein, while govt delivers charities a legal body-slam https://www.crikey.com.au/2017/11/15/business-lobbies-get-free-rein-while-govt-delivers-charities-a-legal-body-slam/  Michael West, 15 Nov 17 

The government is crunching charities for foreign donations and tax breaks. Why, then, are the Minerals Council and other corporate lobby groups allowed tax breaks on their foreign funding?

SLAPP: a strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP) is a lawsuit that is intended to censor, intimidate, and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defence until they abandon their criticism or opposition. Such lawsuits have been made illegal in many jurisdictions on the grounds that they impede freedom of speech. 

— Wiktionary

It’s all happening to charities: Australian Tax Office (ATO) audits, investigations by the charity regulator and the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC), and new laws slated for early next month to stymie tax deductibility, contain advocacy and ban or restrict foreign donations. Many in the not-for-profit sector are scared to speak out for fear of reprisal.

Left-wing activist group GetUp went before the Senate inquiry into political donations last week and pulled out a report detailing the vast amount of money that is spent buying influence in Australian politics.

I should declare an interest here: yours truly did the research, which found 18 corporate lobby groups had raised $1.9 billion over the past three years.

These are vast sums, yet they only represent a few of the most powerful advocacy groups in a handful of sectors: banking, mining, property and big pharma. There must be 100 more. And, together with an estimated $1 billion in corporate political donations since 1998, the “revolving doors” between industry and government, and the hundreds of millions spent by individual companies on “in-house” government relations and external consultants, the real numbers involved in swaying politicians must be well north of $1 billion a year, or more than $4 million per federal politician, per year.

There is already a dangerous imbalance between corporate political power and people’s political power in this country.

In her new autobiography, Christine Milne: An Activist Life, the former Greens leader warns of the shift from democracy to plutocracy. “The takeover is almost complete … The rush toward the revolving door between business and politics has become a stampede. Of the 538 lobbyists registered by the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet in 2016, 191 were former government representatives,” wrote Milne.

The farmer, and veteran of death threats, jail time and arrests as an activist, describes the hegemony of corporate influence as a “major factor in the disillusionment with politicians and democracy”.

Meanwhile, the government is slapping down its ideological adversaries with Tax Office audits and investigations by the AEC and charities regulator, the Australian Charities & Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC).

Draft legislation is prepared and a bill is tipped to come before parliament in the final sitting week of this year. There are serious implications for democracy and free speech.

One one of the main planks of this “reform” is expected to be a ban on foreign donations. It is mostly designed to hit environmental groups such as Greenpeace, 350.org, Lock the Gate and the Australian Conservation Foundation but will also affect those charities working with Indigenous people, poor people, sick people and medical research.

If the bill gets up — and this may depend on what deal is dangled in front of Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, given the government is no longer in majority in parliament — it may see off foreign donations and tax deductibility.

Such would leave an unlevel playing field. Membership to corporate peak bodies such as the Business Council of Australia and the Minerals Council of Australia is tax deductible. Like the charities and NFPs, they pay no tax, but their funding is enormous.

Keen to contain the influence of environmental groups whose message flourishes on social media, the Minerals Council has been the chief urger in lobbying for the government crackdown on NFP advocacy.

More pertinently, while the government moves against foreign donations for environmental and other civil society groups, the corporate lobby remains untouched. The question should be asked, is this fair? The Minerals Council, its state affiliates and the oil and gas peak body, Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA), have raised more than half a billion dollars for advocacy over the past 11 years …

*Read the rest of this article at michaelwest.com.au

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November 17, 2017 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, civil liberties

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