An Australian electoral funding bill could prevent medical research institutes from receiving donations and speaking out about important health issues, an industry body has warned.
Tony Cunningham, president of the Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes, said that the new Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform Bill could result in charities, including medical research institutes, being labelled “political campaigners”. This is because three key terms in the bill – political expenditure, political purpose and public expression – would “unreasonably” define a wide range of apolitical policy development activity as “political campaigning”, he said.
This would hinder their ability to receive donations and provide information to the public on a wide range of issues including tobacco use, immunisation, the effects of alcohol consumption and obesity, he claimed.
In its submission to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters inquiry into the bill, AAMRI urges the government to consult further and consider amendments to the legislation.
“Specifically, AAMRI is calling on the federal government to consider changes to the bill which will exempt ‘health promotion activities’ and ‘public expressions of views by registered charities’ from the list of activities defined as having ‘political purpose’,” Professor Cunningham said.
He added: “AAMRI and our members play a vital role in educating the public to make informed decisions about their health, backed by medical research. This work is not about which political party Australians should vote for. That is what this bill inadvertently implies and that is a slippery slope.”