The government sneakily introduced this package of 3 bills late last year. Any one of them on their own is a massive threat to charities, advocacy and democracy - but together as a package they are outright terrifying.
Here’s what we’re up against -
The “Foreign Donations" Bill (a.k.a the Advocacy Gag law):
This bill would force the AYCC & Seed into a suite of stringent new reporting requirements where we would be classed as a political organisation and force us to associate with a political party which our policy views align with, which is a ludicrous and dangerous imposition. It would also attack our ability to raise funds for our important work fighting climate justice.
Here is just ONE oppressive requirement of this bill: if one donates more than $4.80 a week to a charity organisation, such as the AYCC, the organisation would need a statutory declaration to confirm that this donor is an Australian citizen. Such a stringent requirement would effectively gut funding for charities and discourage many people from donating due to the barrier.
Electoral Legislation Amendment (Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform) Bill 2017
The "Espionage" Bill:
The Espionage bill is designed to discourage political dissent and whistleblowing; any public opposition against the government's agenda will be more dangerous under this bill. Under these laws you risk jail-time for “causing damage to Australia’s international reputation”, which could be from legitimate actions like raising Australia’s inaction on climate change as a risking to our commitment to the Paris agreement and the livelihoods and wellbeing of our island neighbours.
One example of the dangerous lengths of this bill is its criminalisation of coming into contact with classified material, and the definition of such classified material, which is designed to scare whistleblowers and protect the government even if they are undertaking illegal activities. If you even come into contact with such material, even inadvertently reading an e-mail not meant for you, then you risk a whopping 2-15 years of jail time.
National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference) Bill 2017.
The "Foreign Influence Transparency" Bill
This bill is designed to provide “transparency” on the influences on our government from external forces. A non-affiliated individual, discussing political issues relevant to Australia with anybody outside of Australia, would have to sign up to a register of foreign interests and report any activity that could influence government policy. Failure to do so could result in massive fines.
This could be something as harmless as a Facebook message to a friend overseas, or an e-mail from an international relative which mentions an Australian political issue.
The government has also designed a special exemption for multinational corporations, under the guise of ‘commercial secrecy’ so that they may continue to influence the government without transparency, lucky for them!
Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Bill 2017.