National Justice Project joins Hands Off Our Charities coalition

The National Justice Project has placed its support behind the campaign to stop the Federal Government’s proposed legislative changes that will muzzle Australian charities and civil society organisations.

Hands Off Our Charities (HOOC) is an alliance of more than 60 charities and advocacy organisations formed to protect the ability of community voices to be heard in national political debates. Together, the members of HOOC represent millions of Australians concerned with a wide range of issues including education, social welfare, human rights, animal welfare, the environment, health, climate change, disability rights and philanthropy.

Our CEO and Principal Solicitor, George Newhouse, has slammed the proposed regulatory changes to the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC) as an attack on the ability of civil society to advocate for their causes and communities:

“Our democracy relies on the voice and power of civil society organisations to expose systemic injustices in our society. Without an independent civil society, who will hold decision-makers to account for their failings, abuses of power or corruption?”

“This government talks about freedom of speech and protecting the right of individuals who want to vilify LGBTI+ people, but this proposal effectively shuts down the voices the most marginalised people in our society.”

The proposed changes would place advocacy organisations at risk of being de-registered by the Charities Commissioner, even if they have not broken any laws. The Morrison Government’s new regulations would give the government-appointed Charities Commissioner sweeping and discretionary powers to de-register charities. 

“The power of protest can be seen in the profound impact of the #BLM movement, the #MarchForJustice, and the School Strike 4 Climate. But instead of listening to the call for change, this government is trying to silence these voices of dissent.”

“The proposed changes would be a direct attack on thousands of community organisations, charities, faith-based groups and advocacy organisations that so many Australians know and love. We must stand up against this muzzle law so that Australians may continue their civic work without fear of fines and penalties.”

Any charity which breaks the law is already subject to compliance action. Therefore, the HOOC’s primary concern is that the Commissioner could use these broad powers to silence dissent and prevent all charities from holding the government of the day accountable.

To learn more about the campaign against the muzzle law, visit the HOOC website.

In the media:

  • The government is clamping down on charities – and it could have a chilling effect on peaceful protest. Krystian Seibert, The Conversation, 2 July 2021
  • Charities vow to fight proposed regulations they say will ‘muzzle’ their advocacy, Tim Costello, RN Drive, 28 June 2021
  • Coalition accused of using charity crackdown to silence dissent, Daniel Hurst, The Guardian, 28 June 2021
  • Charities to face enforcement if they actively promote unlawful behaviour, Nadine Silva, SBS News, 25 June 2021