A group of not-for-profit and philanthropy experts have warned a planned crackdown on charities by the Coalition will muzzle the sector, restrict dissent, and stifle political advocacy.
The federal government is currently pursuing regulatory change to allow for the deregistration of charities in cases where any of their volunteers commit a summary offence, the most minor of legal breaches.
The sector fears the changes are a threat to the right of almost 59,000 registered not-for-profits to engage in political advocacy.
The new regulations could, for example, allow a massive charity like the St Vincent de Paul Society or UnitingCare to be stripped of charity status if one of their tens of thousands of volunteers attends a protest and does not move on when directed by police.
A major Australian retail group has been hit with $630,000 in fines for multiple breaches of consumer law related to pandemic-related health products, including hand sanitiser with alcohol levels far lower than advertised, the consumer watchdog has announced.
Mosaic Brands Limited, an ASX-listed retail conglomerate that counts Katies, Rivers, Noni B and Rockmans among its stable, has admitted to making false or misleading claims pertaining to hand sanitiser and face mask products between March and June 2020.
The deputy chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, Delia Rickard, said the ACCC was particularly concerned about the misleading claims because they had been made during a global pandemic.
Rickard said a study found “one of the sanitisers tested contained an alcohol content of 17% and another had an alcohol content of 58%, below the percentage advertised on Mosaic Brands’ websites in each case. This was also below the minimum 60% alcohol concentration recommended by Australian health authorities.”
The health minister, Greg Hunt, has been interviewed on ABC Radio about the Victorian outbreak.
He was careful to avoid saying whether the federal government is partly responsible for the lockdown, preferring formulations about how it’s responsible for saving lives and filibustering by repeatedly referring to international Covid-19 infection numbers.
Eventually, he accepted that health was a joint responsibility.
Asked about aged care centres, Hunt provided updated figures that 98% of aged care centres have had at least their first dose, including 99% in Victoria and 100% in Whittlesea, which is at the centre of the outbreak.
But the story is much less rosy in disability care – where 20,000 people have not had their first dose. Hunt said 6,000 people had received 9,000 doses out of a total population of 26,000 in disability care.
He explained that the government had prioritised aged care over disability care, a fact revealed at the Covid committee in April, which came as a surprise given residents of both are in category 1a.
Hunt said the federal government was likely to support a new quarantine facility in Victoria but it would take months to construct.
Asked if ATAGI will review its advice about AstraZeneca not being recommended for under-50s given the Victorian outbreak, he said these decisions were constantly under review and if ATAGI’s advice changes the government would adopt it.