Medical researchers could be labelled as lobbyists under proposed electoral reforms, a peak agency warns.
The Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes says its members could be caught by legislation intended to identify organisations funding, or campaigning for causes during election campaigns. AMRI argues that the existing wording of the bill could catch researchers commenting on health issues, including, the impact of climate change, immunisation, alcohol and e-cigarette use and combating obesity, all of which it says have come up in recent elections.
Passage of the bill is could accordingly lead to MRIs abandoning public policy development lest they be labelled political campaigners or for fear of breaching legislation which carries a ten year prison penalty.
AMRI urges parliament’s joint standing committee on electoral matters recommend amendments to exempt health promotion and public expression of views by a registered charity, “in accordance with charitable objectives.”
This is the second time in in a month that legislation intended to improve political accountability has created concerns among researchers. Last week Universities Australia and the Group of Eight warned a bill to register local agents of foreign powers could catch researchers (CMM January 23).