5 June 2007
The new ATO decision states that charities cannot engage in 'any activity designed to change Australian Government laws, policies or decisions'. Neither can charities engage in 'propogating or promoting a particular point of view’, according to the ATO ruling.
Aid Watch is the only independent watchdog of the Aid program of the Australian Government and has recently been critical of the level and targeting of Australia’s overseas aid program.
Aid Watch monitors and seeks to improve the impacts of aid on the planet and its people. "As a charity we have a responsibility to contribute to public debate on these issues. This is central to our charitable purpose. The ATO Ruling threatens our very existence and sends an ominous message to all charities – question Government policy and you will lose your charitable status," said Mr. Goodman.
Concerns about the Government’s intentions have previously been expressed by organizations such as the St Vincent de Paul Society which in an earlier submission to the Board of Taxation Consultation on the Definition of a Charity argued that "In a democracy, the activity of speaking up in the interests of the marginalized should be encouraged rather than punished. It is an activity that is clearly for the common good"