Australian government releases draft legislation to restrict foreign funding for political advocacy

The Australian government has released draft legislation of the Electoral Legislation Amendment (Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform) Bill 2017, which was introduced into Parliament on December 7, 2017. The bill aims to restrict funding by foreign entities from influencing Australian elections.

The proposed legislation will be reviewed by the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters. Individuals and organizations can make submissions to the Committee regarding the bill until January 25, 2018. The Committee will report on its findings on March 2, 2018.

Website - Government of Australia


Australian advocacy sector criticizes legislation to restrict foreign funding

Australian NGOs have voiced fear over the Australian government’s proposed legislation to restrict foreign funding for Australian political campaigning, claiming that it will significantly reduce advocacy efforts. The legislation would prohibit foreign-sourced donations of more than A$1000 (US$751) to a political party or campaign group. NGO representatives say they are concerned about the "broad" definition of political party, which is likely to include interest and advocacy groups

According to the government, the new law addresses public concerns regarding the influence of large foreign donations on Australian political parties and candidates.

News article - Pro Bono Australia


Australia announces more transparent reporting on charities after review of tax policy

Australian Minister for Revenue and Financial Services Kelly O’Dwyer has announced a reform to the administration and oversight of nonprofit organizations with tax deductible status (DGRs). The reforms will increase the role of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC), strengthen governance arrangements, and reduce bureaucratic hurdles. 

Under the reform, all non-government DGRs will be automatically registered as a charity with the ACNC as of July 1, 2019. The ACNC will then publish charities’ declarations of political expenditure. The Australian government will also issue 'External Conduct Standards' to be enforced by the ACNC.

Press release -Kelly O'Dwyer


Australia to introduce legislation banning foreign sources of funding for political advocacy

Australian Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull announced on December 5, 2017 that the government will ban donations for political campaigning from foreign bank accounts, non-citizens, and foreign entities. The ban on foreign donations will apply to all political campaigning, including interest and advocacy groups that spend money to influence voters. The legislation will be introduced this week, but the Parliament will not consider it in detail until February 2018. Full details of the legislation have not been released.

Publication - Government of Australia


Australian Parliament report calls for creation of 'anti-slavery act'

The Australian Parliament's Joint Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade released a report on modern slavery on December 4, 2017. Entitled "Hidden in Plain Sight", the report makes extensive recommendations, including the creation of a modern anti-slavery act similar to that enacted in the UK in 2015. According to the report, the act should contain a definition of modern slavery and include a provision for an independent Anti-Slavery Commissioner.

Publication - Government of Australia


RESULTS calls on donors to support transitional arrangements during wind-down of GPEI

RESULTS, a network of development lobbyists, has published a report entitled 'A Balancing Act: risks and opportunities as polio and its funding disappears', which analyzes the implications of the end of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI). According to the report, the end of GPEI could mean losing 70% of global funding for polio surveillance, as well as the closing of 146 laboratories that were part of GPEI and its related network. RESULTS therefore calls for a high-level meeting during the World Health Assembly in May 2018 to direct top-down political attention to the wind-down of GPEI, in order to support developing countries that will experience sharp increases in the cost of vaccines. 

Publication - RESULTS


Opinion poll shows majority of Australians support engagement with international issues

A poll conducted by IPSOS, an international market research company, indicates that Australians strongly support helping with famines and natural disasters in other countries. 84% of respondents supported Australia helping the growth of democracy in the world, and 80% believe that their country has a responsibility to be a moral leader in the world.

Interestingly, the results also indicate two thirds of Australians feel that Australia has enough common values with China to enable cooperation on solving international issues. This is a higher level than found by IPSOS in other Western countries.

News article - Sydney Morning Herald


Australian government launches much-anticipated foreign policy white paper

Australia’s Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister have released Australia’s much-anticipated 2017 Foreign Policy White Paper, which provides a framework to guide Australia’s international engagement over the next decade. Highlights from the White Paper include announcements that the government will increase its annual humanitarian funding to A$500 million (US$380 million) in 2019-2020 to improve humanitarian responses. Australia also confirmed that it will continue to work closely with the World Health Organization on emergencies and combatting antimicrobial resistance (AMR). 

The White Paper offers brief coverage of development assistance in Asia, primarily in terms of economic growth, governance, and health security, for example through support for research and development of drugs and diagnostics for malaria and tuberculosis (TB). However, the White Paper makes no reference to development cooperation in Africa.

The 2017 paper is the first to be published since 2003, following intensive consultations with a range of stakeholders in business, civil society, and academia.

Publication - Government of Australia


Lowy Institute criticizes Australian Foreign Policy White Paper's approach to ODA

The Lowy Institute has published an op-ed characterizing the treatment of developent assistance by the Australian government's new Foreign Policy White Paper, published on November 24, 2017, as "diminished and marginalized". The White Paper did not feature development as a core focus. The Lowy Institute's blog also notes that the abolition of the Australian development-assistance agency, AusAID, has led to a loss of internal expertise and massive development-budget reductions.

The Lowy Institute concludes this has contributed to a poor understanding of the contribution of development assistance to Australia's broader foreign policy and national interests.

Blog post - The Lowy Institute


Australian ministers to launch government’s foreign policy white paper

Australian Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Steven Ciobo and Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop are set to launch Australia’s latest foreign policy white paper, which provides an overview of Australia’s international engagement over the next 10 years. The paper focuses on development assistance and relations with the South Pacific.

This will be the first such paper published since 2003, following intensive consultations with universities, think tanks, civil society, businesses, industry groups, and cultural, sporting, and youth organizations.

Press release - Australian government