Australian news, and some related international items

Joint committee advises govt to change its foreign donations bill

Coalition told to rewrite foreign donations bill in unanimous report
Joint standing committee on electoral matters says Turnbull government should remove contentious elements of bill, Guardian,  
Paul Karp, 9  Apr 18, 

The Turnbull government should rewrite its foreign donations bill to narrow the definition of political expenditure and make it less likely to harm advocacy by civil society groups, the electoral committee has recommended.

In a unanimous report released on Monday, the joint standing committee on electoral matters sought to preserve the consensus to ban foreign political donations by calling on the government to strip out more contentious elements of the electoral funding and disclosure bill GetUp characterised the report as a major backdown and argued the bill is unworkable but the Liberal senator Linda Reynolds, the chairwoman of the committee, told Guardian Australia it could be passed with adoption of mostly minor changes

Major parties close to deal on charities and foreign donations. In the majority report, the Coalition and Labor members recommended political expenditure should be defined as spending “to influence voters to take specific action as voters, so as not to capture non-political issue advocacy”.

The changes would allow higher reporting requirements to be imposed on campaigning groups such as GetUp while making it less likely they will capture charities and not-for-profits campaigning on issues such as increasing foreign aid or protecting the Great Barrier Reef.

It recommended dumping new proposed categories of third-party campaigners and political campaigners in favour of a new register for groups attempting to influence voters.

Joining the register could be done voluntarily but would be mandatory for organisations with significant political expenditure, which the report suggests would be the $13,500 threshold that triggers the requirement to submit a return to the Australian Electoral Commission.

The committee recommended the requirement for organisations to seek statutory declarations from political donors be reconsidered.

t also wants the government to reconsider changes to the definition of “associated entity”, which could see campaigning organisations classified as related to political parties merely if they agree on policy matters.

In a minority report, the Greens senator Lee Rhiannon took a harder line that the bill may infringe the freedom of political communication and recommended that issues-based advocacy should be explicitly exempted from the definition of political expenditure.

The GetUp national director, Paul Oosting, said the report was an acknowledgement the bill was unworkable and noted the report did not explicitly recommend passage of the bill……

April 11, 2018 - Posted by | AUSTRALIA - NATIONAL, politics

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