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Monday, 02 May 2016 09:42

Charities regulator offers guidelines on political advocacy

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charity graphic 150Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commissioner Susan Pascoe has told The Canberra Times that new guidelines for how charitable organisations engage in political advocacy before this year’s federal election will support understanding of what activity is appropriate and what is not.

“The ACNC understands that prior to elections, many charities will be considering how they can voice their opinions or concerns about certain political issues,” she said.

“It is clear that there is a need for guidance from the ACNC on what activities we consider to be appropriate, and of course, those activities that may be inappropriate.”

The document, "Political campaigning and advocacy by registered charities: what you need to know", reminds charities that promoting or opposing political parties or candidates would put their charitable status at risk.

The Canberra Times reported that such restrictions do not stop a charity from commenting on, promoting or criticising policies of any party or candidate. Charities can also produce material comparing party platforms on policies, as well as host debates and publish research on policies linked to their main purpose.

The document cautions that once an election has been called, charities “should take extra care” to ensure they are undertaking advocacy work that is consistent with their purpose.

“In the lead up to an election there are increased risks that, in the minds of the public, charity advocacy or campaigning can be associated with a particular political party,” the document says.

This news article was first published on 29 April 2016 in This Week in Catholic Education, the electronic newsletter of the National Catholic Education Commission (NCEC).

Read the ACNC's factsheet on political campaigning and advocacy document here.