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Proposed Queensland laws silencing charities risk breaching the Constitution

Anne Twomey writes in The Conversation (31.1.20) that proposed laws in Queensland would stymie the work of charities. But if they’re tested in court, the author suggests, they’d probably be found constitutionally invalid.

‘The Queensland government’s proposed electoral laws risk being struck down by the High Court if they remain in their current form. This is because they hamper the ability of charities to advocate for their causes and limit the diversity of voices in political debate.

‘Charities are prohibited by law from supporting or opposing candidates or parties in elections, but they can still advocate for policy changes on behalf of those they aid. In doing so, they play an important role in supporting the equal participation in civil society of people who would otherwise be marginalised and excluded from it. They can raise social issues that may be relevant in elections.

‘Through their advocacy, charities are often critical of government policies, regardless of which party is in office. They become seen as nuisances, or even opponents, by political parties.

‘While governments prefer to keep their critics quiet, the High Court has stressed the importance of equal participation in political sovereignty and not allowing the rich to drown out the voices of others. So muzzling charities comes at a constitutional risk.’

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