3 Dec 2010

Australian charitable status decision gives lobby groups certainty says lawyer

5:37 pm on 3 December 2010

A lawyer with the firm acting for an Australian aid watchdog in its battle with the tax department says the High Court's decision to change the law around the political activities of charitable organisations gives them more certainty.

Aid/Watch was stripped of its charitable status four years ago under a 90-year-old disclaimer that disqualifies charities that engage in political activity or attempt to influence government policy from retaining their status.

"Giri Sivaranam says that sort of activity did not come under the four recognised categories of public benefit by which an organisation could qualify for charitable status."

What the court's done is it's removed that disqualification and instead it's stated that engaging in that type of public debate or encouraging public debate on government policy is also of public benefit so that's what the court's done in very short terms in terms of summarising the judgment.

Giri Sivaranam says the disqualification wasn't stringently applied but in the case of Aid/Watch was probably a tax office response to comments generated by the then Conservative government.