How Murray Watt voted compared to someone who believes that the federal government should increase freedom of political communication in Australia by, for example, protecting people's right to inform others about issues and events in the public interest

Division Murray Watt Supporters vote Division outcome

25th Nov 2021, 4:04 PM – Senate Regulations and Determinations - Australian Charities and Not-For-Profits Commission Amendment (2021 Measures No. 2) Regulations 2021 - Disallow

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The majority voted in favour of a motion to stop the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Amendment (2021 Measures No. 2) Regulations 2021 from having legal force. In other words, those Regulations will no longer be part of our law. These types of motions are known as disallowance motions.

What do these regulations do?

South Australian Senator Rex Patrick (Independent), who introduced this motion, explained that:

The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Amendment (2021 Measures No. 2) Regulations 2021 should be disallowed as they amount to a prohibition of freedom of political communication and expression and expose charities to the risk of deregistration for actions most Australians accept as a right and in which they may have engaged, such as peaceful protests and sit-ins. Quite simply, the intent of these regulations is to stop charities engaging in lawful advocacy in pursuit of their charitable purpose. Millions of Australians donate, volunteer and are otherwise involved in charities every year. They provide frontline services in the areas of climate change, domestic violence, homelessness, refugee issues and a vast range of other social issues—issues this government doesn't really care about. Charities have raised issues and continue to advocate on issues such as black deaths in custody and the end of gender-based violence.

These regulations would have huge consequences for the ability of charities to speak up and advocate on behalf of the communities they represent and are part of. Further, these regulations impose far harsher penalties on charities for any minor offence than on any other corporate citizen. Charities don't even have to have committed an offence. The Commissioner of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission only needs to believe they might. If he believes that, they can be deregistered or refused registration. Charities are being held to a higher standard than any other organisation simply because the government is now going to categorise all their activities and advocacy as political activity.

Motion text

That the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Amendment (2021 Measures No. 2) Regulations 2021, made under the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Act 2012, be disallowed [F2021L00863].

absent Yes (strong) Passed by a small majority

28th Jun 2018, 6:25 PM – Senate National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference) Bill 2018 - in Committee - Freedom of speech

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The majority voted against amendments introduced by Greens Senator Nick McKim, which means they failed.

The amendments would have added a number of defences to the bill that relate to freedom of speech, the public interest, artistic expression and the right to protest.

What does this bill do?

This bill was introduced to:

  • amend existing, and introduce new, espionage offences relating to a broad range of dealings with information, including solicitation and preparation and planning offences;
  • introduce new offences relating to foreign interference with Australia’s political, governmental or democratic processes;
  • replace the existing sabotage offence with new sabotage offences relating to conduct causing damage to a broad range of critical infrastructure that could prejudice Australia’s national security;
  • introduce a new offence relating to theft of trade secrets on behalf of a foreign government;
  • amend existing, and introduce new, offences relating to treason and other threats to national security, such as interference with Australian democratic or political rights by conduct involving the use of force, violence or intimidation; and
  • introduce a new aggravated offence where a person provides false or misleading information relating to an application for, or maintenance of, an Australian Government security clearance.

Read more in the bills digest.

No Yes (strong) Not passed by a modest majority

25th Jun 2018, 3:48 PM – Senate Motions - Charitable Organisations - Be wary of adverse impacts of foreign interference laws

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The majority voted in favour of a motion, which means it succeeded. Motions like these don't make any legal changes on their own but can be politically influential since they represent the will of the Senate.

Motion text

That the Senate—

(a) notes that:

(i) on Friday 15 June, the Hands Off Our Charities Alliance released a set of “Red Line Principles” that provide guidance on the government’s proposed package of legislation relating to foreign influence, including the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Bill 2017, the National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign Interference) Bill 2017, and the Electoral Legislation Amendment (Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform) Bill 2017 to Parliament in light of some recent government proposals around foreign involvement in Australian Politics, and

(ii) the Red Line Principles provide a framework to enable Parliament to get the balance right in promoting and protecting public participation in our democracy while recognising concerns over improper influence from big business and foreign entities;

(b) affirms that is it critical that the ability of charities and not-for-profits to use funding for issues-based advocacy is not restricted; that there is a clear distinction between issues-based advocacy and politically partisan electioneering, which is already regulated in the Charities Act 2013; and that organisations do not face a greater compliance burden; and

(c) calls on the government to:

(i) support the Red Line Principles, and

(ii) go back to the drawing board on its package of legislation, and instead implement legislation that puts strict limits on corporate and all other donations to political parties, along with election expenditure caps work to ensure that any bill seeking to deal with the problem of covert foreign influence in Australia does not have unintended consequences, including adverse impacts on charities and on freedom of the press.

Yes Yes Passed by a small majority

How "voted generally against" is worked out

The MP's votes count towards a weighted average where the most important votes get 50 points, less important votes get 10 points, and less important votes for which the MP was absent get 2 points. In important votes the MP gets awarded the full 50 points for voting the same as the policy, 0 points for voting against the policy, and 25 points for not voting. In less important votes, the MP gets 10 points for voting with the policy, 0 points for voting against, and 1 (out of 2) if absent.

Then, the number gets converted to a simple english language phrase based on the range of values it's within.

No of votes Points Out of
Most important votes (50 points)      
MP voted with policy 0 0 0
MP voted against policy 1 0 50
MP absent 1 25 50
Less important votes (10 points)      
MP voted with policy 1 10 10
MP voted against policy 0 0 0
Less important absentees (2 points)      
MP absent* 0 0 0
Total: 35 110

*Pressure of other work means MPs or Senators are not always available to vote – it does not always indicate they have abstained. Therefore, being absent on a less important vote makes a disproportionatly small difference.

Agreement score = MP's points / total points = 35 / 110 = 32%.

And then