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Tuesday, 27 February 2018
Page: 2049

Dr LEIGH (Fenner) (13:36): Australians expect their Chief Scientist to support science, their Chief Medical Officer to support good health and their charities commission head to support charities. But it is not so under the Turnbull government. Under the Turnbull government we have seen attempts to shut down the Charities and Not-for-profits Commission in the first four of its six years of existence. When they couldn't get that legislation through parliament, they turned to the oldest trick in the book: if you can't demolish the house, send in the white ants.

The appointment of a charity critic as head of the charities commission signals a new front in the government's war on charities. Australians overwhelmingly trust their charitable sector to give voice to their concerns on issues like the environment, Indigenous affairs and inequality. But the new ACNC commissioner, Gary Johns, has used his public role to denigrate existing charities. He has said: 'There is a great deal of impure altruism in the charity business'. He has criticised the Indigenous reconciliation charity Recognise. He has criticised beyondblue for their work in LGBT+ communities. He has criticised environmental charities for their advocacy for a better environment. He has said that anyone who is receiving welfare:

… must have contraception. No contraception, no benefit.

He has referred to poor women in Australia as 'cash cows'.

Thousands of Australians have signed the petition calling on Gary Johns to step down as charities commissioner. I urge those who believe in a stronger charitable sector to get on board and sign the petition. (Time expired)