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Thursday, 7 December 2017
Page: 10090

Senator SIEWERT (Western AustraliaAustralian Greens Whip) (15:32): I also seek to take note of the answers to Senator Wong's question on the government's agenda. The government's agenda has been and will be into the new year to do over the charities and the not-for-profit sector in this country. It is very obvious from the appointment of Mr Gary Johns that that is exactly what they want to do. When Senator Brandis was talking earlier in the chamber, he said that he didn't know of the comments that Mr Johns had made. I don't know which planet Senator Brandis has been living on. The comments that Mr Johns made around charities, the work that charities do and advocacies are extremely well-known, as are his comments on contraception for women who are on income support, where he said—and, unfortunately, the government won't let me table this document at the moment:

Some families, some communities, some cultures breed strife. Governments cannot always fix it. Compulsory contraception for those on benefits would help crack intergenerational reproduction of strife.

He posted that on 31 December 2014. He also wrote an opinion piece in The Australian, as he does regularly, in which he extols similar comments. At the bottom of it, it says: 'Mr Johns' book No Contraception, No Dole will be published by Conner Court later this year.'

Mr Johns is a well-known critic of charities and charities' work. He has also publicly criticised Beyond Blue for the work that they have done on mental health, particularly for the work they have done on mental health for the people in LGBTIQ community. His being appointed as the head of the ACNC—the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission—is like putting the fox in charge of the henhouse. It is clearly the government's intention to undermine the effectiveness, the work and the operation of the ACNC. It is absolutely clear! Why else would you put somebody in charge of the ACNC who has such a poor opinion, and, not just a poor opinion, has been a constant critic of charities? In fact, he has written a book about it, extolling his comments on charities, calling it The Charity Ball: How to Dance to the Donors' Tune.

The ACNC has as its responsibility maintaining, protecting and enhancing public trust and confidence in the sector. He has spent his career undermining public confidence in the sector. What a joke that the government has appointed this particular person to head up the commission! It can only be for one reason—that is, to try to destroy it and to try to destroy our charities. There can be no other reason! Representatives of the charity sector have called Mr Johns's appointment 'bizarre'. I echo those comments. David Crosby has said, 'It's a continuation for us of a theme that says the government wants to silence the voice of charities.' Again, I concur. When you look at the sorts of things that Mr Johns has said about charities and the not-for-profit sector, you can draw no other conclusion. The blurb for his book The Charity Ball: How to Dance to the Donors' Tunestates:

Too many charities in Australia do little or no charity work, too many receive most of their income from government, and too many lobby government for more.

He has criticised charities, as I said, including Beyond Blue, for raising concerns about the welfare of LGBTIQ Australians. On the day that we will finally get marriage equality through this place—a person who has used the work that Beyond Blue do to support LGBTIQ Australians—they announce the appointment of Mr Johns to head up charities. This will undermine the operation of ACNC. There is absolutely no doubt that that is their agenda for next year: kill charities and undermine their work!

Question agreed to.