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Australian governments must act now to safeguard and encourage vibrant debate on matters of public interest, fifteen non-government organisations have said in a new report to be released today.  

Emily Howie, Director of Legal advocacy at the Human Rights Law Centre and report co-author, said that there is a clear and worrying trend of Australian governments seeking to restrict the free speech of not-for-profit organisations, through practices such as gag clauses in funding agreements and threats to hamstring advocacy groups’ ability to fundraise.

Environmental organisations have fought to save some of Australia’s most loved places, from the Franklin River to the Barrier Reef, but the Australian Government has not ruled out changes to tax regulations that will restrict the ability of environmental organisations to fundraise and to challenge projects that damage the environment.

The report also considers recent moves to ban foreign funding to NGOs and to limit NGO engagement in election activity.

The report contains ten recommendations for law, policy and practical reform.

The report is endorsed by fifteen of Australia’s best known NGOs including Australian Progress, Pro Bono Australia, Oxfam, ACOSS, the National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples, the Australian Conservation Foundation, Choice, Community Council for Australia, ActionAid, GetUp!, the Wilderness Society, the National Association of Community Legal Centres, Community Legal Centres NSW, Justice Connect and the Reichstein Foundation.

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