Charity disgrace

Gary Johns is now the head of the federal charities regulator, the Australian Charities and Not-For-Profits Commission.

This is the same Gary Johns who told Andrew Bolt, “a lot of poor women in this country, a large portion of whom are Aboriginal, are used as cash cows, right, they are kept pregnant and producing children for the cash. Now that has to stop.”

It is the same Gary Johns who wants the poor to be forcibly denied children. “Some families, some communities, some cultures breed strife,” he writes. “Governments cannot always fix it. Compulsory contraception for those on benefits would help crack intergenerational reproduction of strife.”

It is the same Gary Johns who calls the Indigenous organisation Recognise an “officially sanctioned propaganda arm of the Australian government”.

It is the same Gary Johns who describes foreign aid as giving money to “Third World kleptomaniacs”.

It is the same Gary Johns who criticises opponents of Adani’s Carmichael mine and says the government should refuse “charity status to the enemies of progress”.

It is the same Gary Johns who just this week, in a single column defending Malcolm Turnbull’s leadership, dismissed the National Disability Insurance Scheme as a “massive debt and little to show for it”, called an Indigenous “Voice to parliament” “nonsense” and said we should “work every day” for a government that “demands good behaviour from its welfare recipients”.

It is the same Gary Johns, in the same column, who writes about “the really needy, not some self-appointed identity group that failed to make a case for another dollop of taxpayer provision”.

It is the same Gary Johns who, in a column before that, writes that the Coalition needs to “assault the green mindset”. Who writes, “Activists are damaging Australia. It is about time politicians grew a backbone and confronted these latter-day Luddites.”

It is the same Gary Johns who is openly contemptuous of charities. Who writes, “Some charity activities such as lobbying are of doubtful public benefit but profitable for the charity. Some charitable purposes are doubtful on other grounds.”

And, “On the donor side, there is some self-regard and some agenda-chasing. On the charity side, there is agenda pushing and organisation enhancement. No set of rules could hope to create a clean market of pure motives and perfect outcomes. Doing good is often contestable.”

Gary Johns is hostile towards charities. For the government, that makes his a perfect appointment.

Johns says he will not exercise his views in the position. “I don’t have a political view,” he says. “Of course, I did. I hope you read all of my works.”

The assistant treasurer, Michael Sukkar, says Johns could not be expected to “expunge” his views. He says the role should not make him an “advocate for charities”.

The Turnbull government has run a war on charities. It has threatened their tax status, changed their operating requirements, criticised their actions. Now it places above them a man dismissive of their function and the people they serve.

If it were not so serious, it could be thought of as petty, an expression of a government that is puerile in its vindictiveness. But it is worse than that: it is an embodiment of this government’s hostility to the poor, to the environment, to First Australians, to a sector that helps those the Coalition refuses to help. Ignoring these issues is not enough for this government; it wants those fighting for them punished.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on December 9, 2017 as "Charity disgrace".

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