Gag on charities not on



11 AM Wednesday, 30 July 2003


The threat to charities and church groups that criticise government policy of losing their tax-free status is simply “not on” according to Jesuit Social Services Policy Director, Father Peter Norden.

This draft legislation is contained in the Charities Bill 2003 and is part of the Government’s response to the Report of the Inquiry into the Definition of Charities and Related Organisations.

Federal Treasurer, Peter Costello, who has introduced draft legislation that suggests that “attempting to change the law or government policy” is a “disqualifying purpose” or an unlawful activity for a charity will need to think again according to the Jesuit’s social policy centre in Melbourne.

“This attempt to silence the churches and the non-government sector was tried on by the Kennett Government here in Victoria during the 1990’s”, according to Peter Norden, “but they soon found out that it simply could not be implemented”.

“On that occasion, the gag was concealed in confidentiality clauses and intellectual property clauses in government contracts and we simply refused to sign. When Jesuit Social Services moved to engage our peak bodies of Catholic Social Services and VCOSS, the Kennett advisers backed right off”, Father Norden explained.

“Government policy advisers simply have to learn that it is a central mission of charities such as ours not only to do good but to ensure that harmful legislation and regulations are changed to protect the vulnerable members of our community,” he said.

“The Jesuits have been around for more than 450 years, and I think we will be around after the Howard Government, and even after an Abbott or Costello Government,” he insisted.

“Moral issues are our bread and butter and we will not be starved out of this activity by such misguided and poorly grounded legislation,” said Father Norden.

“A responsible and mature government encourages open and independent public debate and does not try to gag its critics as part of the democratic process,” insisted Father Norden

“The church and the non-government welfare sector makes a serious attempt to understand the complex role of government, and, in turn, we expect government to do its homework in understanding the essential role of our sector as well,” he concluded.

“If the Treasurer attempts to proceed with this legislation, without amendment, the Government will be in for a big surprise!”, he added.

FOR FURTHER COMMENT, CONTACT: Father Peter Norden, S.J., 03 9427 7388 (office), 0409 0409 94 (mobile)

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