June 25, 2018

Government committee sees sense in excluding charities from foreign influence bill

SYDNEY, Monday June 25, 2018: The decision to exempt charities from registration requirements for the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme (FITS) Bill was a win for the environment, compassion and good sense, 350.org Australia said today.

The Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) has recommended in a report tabled to parliament today that civil society work of charities, arts organisations and industrial associations should be exempted from registration requirements of the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Bill.

“In its previous form, charities like 350.org Australia, PEW Environment Group, Caritas, World Vision, Amnesty and Environment Justice Australia would have suffered as collateral damage in the Federal Government’s bid to stop foreign agents’ influence on Australian politics,” said Blair Palese, 350.org Australia CEO.

“This bipartisan recommendation will mean charities are free of what would have been severe restrictions on their day-to-day work.”

“Australia relies on charities to fill the gaps where the government will not or can not act – for the environment, for human dignity, equality, and more. This is an important acknowledgement of the role charities play, and the need for them to be able to freely advocate and challenge the government to bring about a better society.”  

350.org is part of the Hands Off Our Charities alliance, which recognises the need for efforts to prevent foreign interference in Australian politics, but argues that the process for developing the government’s foreign influence package has been deeply flawed.

“We are relieved at the recommendations from the Committee and look forward to their full implementation in this Bill. However, the Hands Off Our Charities alliance is still concerned about the related Espionage Bill that we believe is being rushed through Parliament. Efforts to protect Australian democracy from covert foreign interference should not damage our democracy and put the good work of Australia’s charities and not-for-profits at risk,” Palese said.

For more information contact

Louise Fraser at lou@350.org.au or 0438 993 068