The Fred Hollows Foundation has welcomed changes to the Electoral Legislation Amendment Bill and the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Bill, which passed the Senate last night.

The Foundation has been working with others in the sector as part of the “Hands Off Our Charities” alliance calling on politicians to amend the legislation.

Ian Wishart, CEO, The Fred Hollows Foundation said the Australian public expect charities to raise issues like poverty, discrimination and poor service delivery.

“Charities have a long history of raising issues that governments find uncomfortable,” Mr Wishart said.

“That’s why we called on the Government to not silence the voices it considers inconvenient or simply does not want to hear.”

Mr Wishart said charities, and the millions of Australians they represent, are a critical part of freedom of expression in Australia and must remain so.

“We are pleased the government has now listened to the views of charities and amended the legislation, “Mr Wishart said.

The Fred Hollows Foundation would like to thank the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters for ensuring there were public submissions about the appropriateness of the legislation.

“Without opposition members providing a forum for these views we may have had bad legislation passed,” Mr Wishart said.

Mr Wishart said The Fred Hollows Foundation has a proud and successful history of calling on governments in Australia and around the world to invest more in eye health services to help people who are blind but don’t have to be.

“The legislation would have redefined this legitimate work by charities, like The Fred Hollows Foundation, to be “political expenditure”. It would have put us in the same category as the work of political parties and other political actors. Our work is very different, and is already regulated differently,” Mr Wishart said.

“The Fred Hollows Foundation will continue to raise uncomfortable issues with government, and highlight the failure to address issues like the gap that still exists for Aboriginal people in accessing eye health in Australia. It’s what Fred did, and it’s what he would expect us to do.”

Mr Wishart thanked The Foundation’s supporters, many of whom signed petitions calling on the government to amend the legislation.

“Our supporters really rallied as part of this campaign. They were channelling Fred’s spirit of holding power to account. Thankfully these bad laws have now been made better,” Mr Wishart said.