09 January 2008

Good news for non-profits

"Labor to lift gag on critics" says the headline on the top left hand corner of today's Australian front page. On the page it's overshadowed by more about the cricket brouhaha, and online it's published as Critics in 'climate of fear': Gillard , yet the message is clear and very welcome:

Acting Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the not-for-profit sector had been operating in a "climate of fear"under the Howard Government.

It had been forced to hold its tongue and not make public comments or risk losing funding.

Her comments came on the day The Australian revealed that Labor plans to rewrite government contracts with the non-profit sector to rip out gag clauses.

"We don't want to stifle debate, we want to ensure that this country ends up with the best possible policy. This requires us to get the gag off and listen to those who know what's going on,'' Ms Gillard said in Melbourne today.

"When we consulted with the not for profit organisations in the run up to the federal election they did say to us they were concerned what these clauses meant. There was a climate of fear that meant they were anxious about speaking out and advocating for those that they worked with.

"We want to get that fear well away, we want to make sure that they can have their say and still be treated fairly by governments.
"You only get the best possible public policy if you have the debate. The former government took the view that silence was better. We take the view that debate and hearing everybody's voices is much better.

Ms Gillard said there were several thousands of contracts between not-for-profits and the government with gag clauses, in the employment, housing and social services sector.

Well done, Ms Gillard and, presumably, your federal government colleagues.

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