The Liberal Party is harvesting tens of thousands of dollars in donations from registered children’s charities and charities for the disabled. Michael West reports.
The Liberal Party is harvesting tens of thousands of dollars in donations from registered charities. This despite the fact that charities are not supposed to make donations to political parties.
The regulator is the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) whose website appears to make it clear that making political donations is a disqualifying action for charities.
Nonetheless, Michael West Media has identified a number of donations to the Liberal Party over the past three years. Among disclosures to the NSW Electoral Commission:
- the Armenian Relief Society (pictured above) paid $2,970 to have breakfast with Premier Gladys Berejiklian in March last year,
- the Cerebral Palsy Foundation paid $1,790 to have dinner with the Premier in May 2018,
- and Sydney Children Hospital Foundation paid $1,900 to have a conversation with the Premier.
The ACNC was contacted for comment but declined to provide a response to questions on the record. A request for an interview with Commissioner Gary Johns is yet to receive a response.
Typically, charities raise money from both community donors, corporate donors and contributions from government. In the case of Cerebral Palsy Foundation, more than half its income is from government grants. Bizarrely then, the Foundation donates a bit of money to the Liberal Party and the Liberal Party in government gives the Foundation quite a bit more money.
To stress the scandal here: charities are giving money from community donors to a political party to use for its campaigning to stay in power and that political party, which controls the government, uses taxpayers’ money – not Liberal Party money – to donate to the charity.
According to ACNC guidance:
Should a charity support (or oppose) a particular political party or candidate?
No, because the charity will run the risk of being found to have a disqualifying political purpose, and therefore not being a registered charity.
Should a charity donate money to a particular candidate or political party during an election campaign?
No, because the charity will run the risk of being found to have a purpose of supporting a particular candidate or party.
Should a charity attend events organised by a political party?
A charity’s representatives should think carefully before deciding to attend an event organised by a political party.
Should a charity attend fundraising events for a political party or candidate for office?
Is the event a fundraiser for a political party or candidate? If so, the charity runs the risk of being found to have a purpose of promoting a political party or candidate.
Has the attendance fee been priced to include a surplus for political fundraising purposes? If so, the charity runs the risk of being found to have a purpose of promoting a political party or candidate.
If these matters are not clear, the charity should inquire about the nature of event.
The charities mentioned in this story were all contacted for comment. As yet, none have been available to discuss the matter.
Michael West established michaelwest.com.au to focus on journalism of high public interest, particularly the rising power of corporations over democracy. Formerly a journalist and editor at Fairfax newspapers and a columnist at News Corp, West was appointed Adjunct Associate Professor at the University of Sydney’s School of Social and Political Sciences.