Your ability to raise your voice about issues you care about is under threat. The federal government has proposed new laws that will silence Australians and avoid accountability.

The changes will tie charities up in red tape and make it difficult for us to use your crucial donations for the purpose they were given. Amnesty is working with other charities to stop these changes.

Proposed changes to restrict the work of NGO’s

Amnesty is working to ensure that charities and civil society are not impacted by three ‘foreign interference bills’ put forward by the Federal Government in December 2017.

The changes in these bills would undermine civil society’s crucial role in helping government make policy decisions that affect all Australians. Perhaps most frighteningly, the bill would obstruct charities’ work in exposing evidence that holds governments to account, like Amnesty’s advocacy to reduce incarceration rates of Indigenous kids.

Charities work to support Australians, particularly those in need, and help put issues you care about at the centre of decision-making. Essential funds for life-saving medical research, to alleviate poverty, to support Indigenous self-determination, and to protect our forests, rivers and wildlife are now at risk.

Restricting advocacy by charities sends a deeply troubling message – that our government is seeking to avoid accountability. Their actions would have a chilling effect on our democracy.

Parliamentary Committees have been examining the bills and Amnesty has made a submission which you can read here. You can also check out this great piece of legal analysis by Professor Anne Twomey.

Hands off our Charities Alliance

Amnesty has joined a group of like-minded charities and NGO’s in the Hands off our Charities alliance. We are working together with groups like the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS), Caritas Australia and the Australian Conservation Foundation to protect the right of charities to engage in public debate.

So how does this relate to human rights?

This year is the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote, and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Article 13 of the Declaration stresses the right of associations to solicit, receive and utilise financial resources. The proposed Bill would contradict this Article, and also impact the rights to freedom of expression and of association set out in the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights, to which Australia is a party.

Amnesty are also concerned about the precedent this bill sets for the international community. It has the potential to help justify measures that stifle the voices of human rights defenders. Sadly, such measures have already been introduced in several states, like what’s happening in Hungary right now.

This bill is example of Government overreach impacting on the vibrancy of Australia’s civil society and the capacity for human rights organisations in Australia to effectively advocate for their cause.

What can you do?

You can join Amnesty and the Hands off our Charities campaign  by visiting their website and signing their petition.

You can raise this issue with your local MP or Senators in your State. You can provide them with a copy of Amnesty’s submission to the Parliamentary Inquiry, outline your concerns and explain to them why Amnesty’s work is important to you. The impact that you can have by contacting your representative directly can’t be understated. Don’t forget to please let us know how you go. 

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Emma Bull is the Advocacy & External Affairs Manager at Amnesty International Australia.