The Morrison government is trying to change electoral laws so charities like the Australian Conservation Foundation would lose the full ability to advocate for nature and the environment. 

Last-minute changes to the Electoral Legislation Amendment (Political Campaigners) Bill have passed the lower house and are now in the Senate.

There has not been adequate consultation with those the law will affect most.

“We are calling on Senators to closely scrutinise these amendments which will greatly impact the role charities play in Australia’s democracy,” said ACF Chief Executive Kelly O’Shanassy.

“The changes are unfair, legally unclear and amount to an attack on Australian democracy.

“Some of Australia’s most cherished environmental jewels – places like the Great Barrier Reef, Kakadu and the Kimberley – have only been protected because conservation organisations have harnessed community concern and advocated for their protection.

“Advocacy is legally protected in Australia, yet this bill confuses charity law and wrongly conflates advocacy with campaigning for political office.

“ACF urges Senators to reject amendments that are unfair and would stifle democracy in Australia.”

Among other amendments, the bill would mean:

  • A charity that participates in Australia’s democracy would be required to register as a ‘political campaigner’ based on a new expenditure threshold. As this will apply retrospectively, charities that stayed below previous thresholds will now be re-classified as political campaigners, despite no change in their activities.
  • The definition of ‘electoral expenditure’ would be expanded to include any expenditure ‘in relation to an election’ when previously that applied only to parties and candidates.

Since 1965, ACF has played a crucial role in Australia’s democracy. This new law threatens to weaken the impact of not-for-profit environment groups.

ACF Media Enquiries

Journalists with enquiries may contact Josh Meadows on 0439 342 992. For all other enquiries please call 1800 223 669 or email [email protected]