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Caritas Australia ended the year on a high note with a win for civil society and Australian democracy. They have proved that ‘sometimes the good guys win’ with the success of a campaign they spearheaded to change the provisions of a government bill.
The Electoral Disclosure Reform Bill (EFDR) was intended to stop foreign donations to political parties. However it became clear that in its original form, the EDR would have stopped Caritas and similar groups advocating for, or even raising, issues of social justice, public policy and other concerns of civil society.
Voices would have been silenced
Caritas and the other members of the Hands Off Our Charities Coalition are applauding the decision by all political parties to pass the amended version of the Electoral Disclosure Reform Bill (EFDR) through both houses of parliament.
“In its original form, this Bill would have silenced the voices of tens of thousands of non-partisan Australian charities and other not-for profit agencies and thereby reduced the quality of public policy debate significantly,” said Paul O’Callaghan, CEO of Caritas Australia.
How democracy thrives
“Since Australian Federation in 1901, advocacy by civil society organisations has been a pillar of how Australian democracy thrived. It was this unconstrained civic voice that provided a necessary balance in public policy formulation and helped to keep federal and State governments accountable for the public good”, he said.
Original Bill posed dangers
“Since early 2018 the concerted effort of the Hands Off Our Charities Coalition has enabled many Australians to appreciate the dangers posed by the original Bill. Due to the Coalition’s work, the final Bill has been greatly improved and now reflects the charity sector’s Red Line Principles on law reform,” Mr O’Callaghan said.
“The supporters of Caritas Australia are relieved to see that the voice of non-partisan contributors to public policy debate will not now be curbed”.
As a member of the Hands Off Our Charities Coalition, Caritas Australia, the Catholic Church’s international aid and development agency, commends all those within the national political process who accepted the need for major amendments to the Bill.
Last year, Caritas Australia assisted more than two million people directly through its emergency and long term development programs.
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