When it comes to tax deductibility, some organisations are more equal than others, and the imbalance needs to be righted. John Menadue has written a strong article in Pearls and Irritations (P&I) a little while ago, following rejection by the ATO recently on P&I’s application for DGR status – a "charity" status allowing tax deductibility of donations.

He’s angry and writes: "Government media funding supports the failing mainstream media (MSM) and right-wing advocacy groups like the Institute of Public Affairs. The News Media Bargaining Code gifts $1b over four years from Google and Facebook mainly to Nine Network, Seven West Media, Guardian, and News Corp. The last two are foreign owned.
The right-wing advocacy body, Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) which is a training ground for aspiring Liberal politicians has Deductible Gift Recipient status (DGR) which means that Gina Reinhardt and Rupert Murdoch receive tax deductions for their very large donations to IPA. By contrast independent public interest media such as Pearls and Irritations, Crikey, Croakey and Michael West Media do not have DRG status."

Menadue goes on to offer a light ahead: "Fortunately, Treasurer Chalmers, in February last year, asked the Productivity Commission (PC) to review Philanthropy. The PC is due to report back to the Treasurer next month on Philanthropy."

"In its draft report the PC has recommended that DGR status be expanded to include public interest media and journalism. Along with other independent journals we support this recommendation.
Speaking of the draft report on 25 March this year, the Deputy Chair of the PC said that ‘the DGR system is broken’."*

Tax deductibility is very important in attracting funds from supporters, and particularly significant in the decision making of high-income earners on whom they choose to support.
This issue is of course also of great interest to ABC Friends, as our National Committee is currently preparing to apply for DGR status for ABC Friends.

Why is the IPA considered to be a "charity" deserving of tax deductibility status? Apparently, in the past the ATO has considered the amount of investment by the IPA in "research" to be a qualification, although, considering the drubbing its so-called one question, skewed poll announcement in 2020, that "Only 32% of Australians believe the ABC represents the views of ordinary Australians" immediately received, that seems richly undeserved. The "poll" claims were quickly and publicly torn apart on Media Watch, and subsequently fully exposed by the ABC Friends’ commissioned 2020 Roy Morgan research papers, that detailed enormous support for the public broadcaster across the country and positioning the ABC as the No. 1 media channel most accessed by Australians on TV, radio and on the web. So, one does wonder how such IPA produced nonsense would be classed as "research", rather than more accurately "disinformation".

Hopefully the Productivity Commission will recommend "fixing" the DGR system, and bringing back some semblance of all organisations being equal in how it works.

Marcus May

*John Menadue. Pearls and Irritations Supporting independent public interest media. Apr 19, 2024.

John Menadue is the Founder and Editor in Chief of Pearls and Irritations. He was formerly Secretary of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet under Gough Whitlam and Malcolm Fraser, Ambassador to Japan, Secretary of the Department of Immigration and CEO of Qantas.

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