27 September 2023

Charities warned to take care in election

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The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) has issued a warning to Australian charities to take care becoming involved in the 2022 Federal Election to be held on Saturday 21 May.

Commissioner of the ACNC, Gary Johns called on the charities to be aware of their obligations relating to political advocacy and campaigning.

“While advocacy and campaigning are important to the work that many of Australia’s registered charities undertake, and are legitimate and effective ways of furthering a charitable purpose, it is important to note there are lines that should not be crossed,” Dr Johns said.

“We have guidance to help charities understand their obligations. However, we encourage charities to read the guidance in full to ensure they do not jeopardise registration.”

He said charities were allowed to engage in advocacy or campaigning only as long as their efforts furthered their charitable purpose.

“Any advocacy or campaigning charities conduct must not have a purpose to promote or oppose a political party or a candidate for political office; engage in or promote activities that are unlawful; or engage in or promote activities that are contrary to public policy.

“These are disqualifying political purposes and any charities that participate in them risk losing their ACNC registration,” Dr Johns said.

He said charities also needed to be aware of obligations they may have to the Australian Electoral Commission (AEC).

“Since the last Federal Election, the obligations charities have to the AEC have changed,” he said.

“Charities that spend money while campaigning or advocating on electoral matters – communicating on issues with the dominant purpose of influencing how people might vote at the next election – may incur electoral expenditure.”

“I would encourage those who lead charities to view the AEC’s guidance, along with the ACNC guidance to ensure they are not risking their organisation’s registration,”

Dr Johns said.

The Charities Commission’s guidance can be accessed at this PS News link and the Electoral Commission’s guidance at this link.

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