Charities supporting unlawful behaviour will not be tolerated

Federal Member for Wide Bay and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives Llew O’Brien has welcomed stronger rules to protect Australian producers and community members from illegal behaviour carried out by activist organisations masquerading as charities.

“The right to peaceful, lawful protest is one of Australia’s key democratic principles, and it is strongly supported by myself and by the Morrison Government – however, some organisations are using their position as charities to carry out behaviour that is far from charitable,” Mr O’Brien said.

“Australian taxpayers subsidise charities through tax concessions, with the expectation the money goes to charitable works, not vandalism and harassment campaigns.
 
“Farmers across Australia have been subject to attacks including break-ins at night, illegal blockades, damage to property and theft of stock, and this type of unlawful behaviour has been actively promoted by activist organisations. It’s not on, and it’s got to stop.”

Mr O’Brien said charities performed vital work across Australia, and the vast majority of charitable organisations were doing the right thing and were well-deserving of their charitable status.

Under current rules, charities are prohibited from engaging in conduct that may be dealt with either as an indictable offence under Australian law, or by way of a civil penalty of 60 penalty units. However, many other unlawful activities are not covered.

Under the new regulations, offences including trespass, unlawful entry, malicious damage or vandalism, or threatening violence will be added. Charities will also be prohibited from using their resources to promote or support others to engage in such unlawful activity.

“The new stronger legislation will not affect the majority of charities which are doing excellent work to help Australians, but it will help protect against the unlawful actions of a fringe minority, and ensure the public can uphold their trust in our charities, ensuring they are doing the right thing and deserve support,” Mr O’Brien said.

The new standards will be given effect through amendments to the Governance Standards contained in the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Regulation 2013. Treasury will be seeking submissions from the public on the amendments in early 2021.