Changes giving Australia’s charities regulator broad powers to strip groups of their tax-deductible donation status should be ditched, a federal parliamentary committee recommends.
The federal government has been unable to allay the Liberal-chaired Senate committee’s concerns about the breadth of the powers to be handed to the charities commissioner.
Critics accused the coalition of trying to silence advocacy by threatening them with deregistration for things like blocking a footpath at a public vigil, or speaking or tweeting in support of a public demonstration.
The committee recommended the rules be scrapped and flagged a motion to disallow them when parliament returns on October 18.
Liberal senator and committee chair Concetta Fierravanti-Wells earlier wrote to Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar requesting more information about the need for and scope of the powers.
Specifically, there were concerns about what objective test would be used to make the decision and what factors the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission was required to take into account.
The committee also questioned how the powers complied with freedom of political communication.
A government note explaining the regulations said they were needed to give the public greater confidence that a charity is “governed in a way that is consistent with its purposes, and that it protects its assets, reputation, and the people it works with”.