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Removing gag clauses a welcome first step - Greens

The Australian Greens are pleased the Government has announced it will review contracts with non-government organisations to remove gagging clauses.

"This is a great first step, but far more needs to be done to undo the legacy of John Howard," said Senator Rachel Siewert today.

The Howard years saw a substantial undermining of the role of civil society in Australia, and a winding back by the Federal Government of community engagement in policy development and governance. It also saw the watering down of many of the core institutions and safeguards of our democracy, and eroding of the freedom to question and dissent.

The Howard Government also cut funding to many non-government organisations such as environment groups and threatened tax deductibility status.

"It is essential the Labor Government rectify this situation," said Senator Siewert. "They must undo these changes and to begin the task of putting in place renewed democratic institutions that are both more open and more robust."

"We need a more open and democratic Australia in which government gives all sectors in civil society a greater opportunity to actively participate in decision-making ... and values the role of community organisations as the imagination of our democracy," she said.

We call on the Federal Government to:

* Ensure adequate and sustainable funding for a vibrant NGO sector in Australia
* Remove all funding limitations on the ability of groups to engage in advocacy
* Ensure that NGOs are able to engage in advocacy as well as service provision and retain charitable tax status for accepting donations
* Provide funding for NGOs to engage with Governments in policy development
* Re-establish genuinely representative peak consultative bodies for the various sectors
* Ensure that the NGO sector is represented on all relevant Government consultation bodies
* Implement a major review of Freedom of Information legislation to ensure proper access to information about Government programs and policies.

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