The looming federal election provides those of you managing or involved in a charity with a useful opportunity to consider the types of activities that can be undertaken without engaging in a “disqualifying purpose” under the Charities Act 2013 (Cth) (Act).

The Act provides that a “disqualifying purpose”, which includes the purpose of promoting or opposing a political party or a candidate for political office, is one that will result in a charity losing its charitable status.

However, the Courts have found that charities can advocate for or against any matter of law, policy or practice, provided it is done so in the furtherance of its charitable purpose.

If an individual involved in a charity, either as a member, employee or director, supports a political party in their own capacity by making donations, or participating in demonstrations, that will not amount to a “disqualifying purpose” under the Act.

Additionally, if the charity were to publish materials outlining the differences in policies between political parties, if the charity’s purpose is to encourage public debate, or the charity promotes/opposes a law in the furtherance of another charitable purpose under the Act, that would unlikely constitute a “disqualifying purpose”.

However, the types of activities that may bring you close to the line include the charity funding a political party, releasing materials that promote a political party in a biased manner, or directly supporting a political party or candidate.

While lobbying for a particular purpose or policy may be acceptable, charities need to tread carefully in ensuring that the lobbying does not fall outside of the charitable purpose for which the charity is set up.

For more information on whether your charity may be engaging in a “disqualifying purpose”, or for general legal advice in relation to your charity, please contact:

Paul Gray
Principal Lawyer
T: 03 5225 5231
E: pgray@ha.legal

 or

Alexander Gulli
Lawyer
T: 03 5226 8573
E: agulli@ha.legal

This article was prepared with the assistance of Tanner Redden, Graduate Lawyer