Finding the Limits of Aid/Watch

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Matthew Harding


Commissioner of Taxation v Aid/Watch Incorporated is the latest of a series of recent cases in which the High Court of Australia has exhibited what might be described as a ‘generosity of spirit’ to would-be taxpayers whose charitable status has been called into question. In Aid/Watch, the Court ruled that an organisation formed to monitor and evaluate the delivery of foreign aid by Australian government agencies was a charity even though it was engaged, consistently with its objects, in the sorts of political activities that traditionally have been regarded as anathema to charity. This article considers where we might feasibly locate the boundaries of the High Court’s reasoning in Aid/Watch, in light of charity law as a whole. In other words, as a matter of charity law, what are the limits of Aid/Watch? Thinking about this question demands: (a) some understanding of what the High Court in Aid/Watch said with certainty; and (b) a wider review of charity law to see which of its rules and principles may bear upon cases about political purposes now that Aid/Watch has been decided.

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Articles (refereed)
Author Biography

Matthew Harding

Associate Professor, Melbourne Law School, University of Melbourne