Politics

Liberals demand investigation into Smart Energy Council over political advocacy


Bragg noted Grimes had appeared at other events with Climate 200-backed candidates, including a joint press conference with Warringah MP Zali Steggall and North Sydney candidate Kylea Tink in April, “directly lending the SEC’s support to their political campaigns”. The complaint does not make any allegation that any individual has breached the law, rather, only that the SEC has.

Bragg also referred to a previous warning the SEC received from the regulator over bin stickers it produced featuring images of Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, along with the words “chuck them out” and “bin him”.

Liberal senator Andrew Bragg and Smart Energy Council boss John Grimes.

Liberal senator Andrew Bragg and Smart Energy Council boss John Grimes.Credit:James Brickwood, Alex Ellinghausen

This was evidence the SEC was advocating the election of the Greens and undertaking “prohibited activities against the current government”, Bragg wrote.

In his capacity as SEC spokesman, Wayne Smith told the Herald and The Age: “I would expect Australians would be outraged to think there are such things as prohibited activities against the current government.”

He said the council supported any political party that supports smart energy policies and strong action on climate change, and had previously worked with Clive Palmer, Angus Taylor, Matt Kean, Gladys Berejiklian and others, and provided photographs to that effect.

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“I would have thought that Senator Bragg would have bigger issues to be concerned about; soaring power bills, rising interest rates, massive inflation and the incredible cost of living pressures for all Australians,” Smith said.

The ACNC said the law prevented it commenting on whether a charity was under investigation.

Last week, after the boss of Guide Dogs Victoria appeared on flyers supporting Josh Frydenberg, Johns told 3AW radio charities were free to compare the policy positions of political parties but if their “purpose” was to support or oppose a political candidate, they could be in trouble.

“The subtlety of that is the word ‘purpose’,” Johns said. “I always send out this signal: don’t dip into the actual endorsement or criticism of a candidate, otherwise it might disqualify you.

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“If [a charity] sticks to a policy discussion and simply points out the facts, then that’s completely OK. They’re on safe ground there.”

Bragg, who has campaign responsibilities for Wentworth and Warringah electorates among other NSW seats, said he wanted the Smart Energy Council’s registration as a charity examined very closely.

“They’ve got to be very careful because charities are charities, they’re not political parties,” he said. “If we’re going to give an organisation charity status, it can’t become a political organisation.”



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