Staples, J. 2022, ‘Stories for my Grandchildren’, in Changing Times, Changing Lives: Recollections from twelve of the lucky generation, edited by Jo O’Neil and Edith L. Bavin, Bad Apple Press .

Five stories from Joan’s youth written for her grandchildren and explaining the development of her values.

Staples, J. 2019, ‘Hawke’s environmental legacy – a personal reflection’, Pearls and Irritations, 30 May, 

There has been much written on Bob Hawke’s legacy following his death. None has fully celebrated his monumental environmental record nor touched on his unique relationship with the environment movement.

Staples, J. 2019, ‘The Right to Advocate is at the Core of Our Democracy’, in REBALANCING RIGHTS: Communities, corporations and nature, The Green Institute,

Staples, J. 2018, ‘An Australian civil society success story’, Pearls and Irritations, 29 November,

Almost twelve months ago, I first wrote of threats to democratic advocacy from three foreign interference Bills.  On Tuesday this week, the final most controversial Bill, the Electoral Funding and Disclosure Reform Bill, was passed with the support of civil society. The story of this transformation from horrified opposition to support for the Bill is a story of Australian civil society working together to influence legislation in a way rarely seen. It opens the way for future collaboration to proactively promote the strengthening of our democracy.

Staples, J. 2018, ‘Foreign interference bills threaten civil society freedoms’, Pearls and Irritations, 15 June,

The government’s urgent pursuit of foreign interference bills prior to the July by-elections aims to wedge Labor for short term electoral gain.  However as Labor agrees to support the bills, yet more of our political freedoms are being destroyed at great loss to our democracy.

Staples, J. 2018, ‘Bill weak on stopping foreign donations, but strong on silencing NGOs, Pearls and Irritations, 23 February,

The current Bill before parliament to reform electoral donations is the most comprehensive attempt I have seen at silencing public advocacy in 30 years.  It does not succeed in its supposed aim to restrict foreign donations – an aim that is supported by NGOs.  Instead, it is a convoluted, excruciatingly complicated maze that will undoubtedly silence a wide range of charities, NGOs and public interest institutions.

Staples, J. 2017, ‘Incredulous disbelief at Gary Johns to head charities regulator’, Pearls and Irritations, 12 December,

The appointment of Gary Johns last week as director of the regulator, the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC), has created incredulous disbelief and concern amongst NGO leaders.  For decades, Johns has been proactive in criticising the public advocacy of NGOs and even their very existence.

Staples, J. 2017, ‘Government targets international philanthropy for civil society’, Pearls and Irritations, 6 December,

A bill expected to be introduced by the Government this week, may deliberately create confusion by linking foreign donations to political parties, with foreign donations to civil society organisations.  It is expected to propose banning both.

Staples, J. 2017, ‘Civil Society Highs and Lows’, Pearls and Irritations, 11 November,

Australian civil society has seen the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) win the Nobel Peace Prize, the High Court uphold Bob Brown’s challenge to Tasmanian protest laws, and the Coalition extend its attacks on NGO advocacy, targeting GetUp.

Staples, J. 2017, ‘Environmental NGOs, Public Advocacy and Government’, Pearls and Irritations, 26 July,

The Federal Turnbull Government moving to limit environmental NGO’s public advocacy by requiring them to spend 50% of their income on practical environmental tasks such as tree planting.

Staples, J. 2017, ‘NGOs and a clash of world views’, Pearls and Irritations, 22 June

Coalition Governments have been trying to stop NGO advocacy for 20 years. Current attacks on the sector are a clash between a neoliberal old world order dominated by fossil fuels and a world view based on sustainability and equity

Staples, J. 2016, ‘Democracy, environmental justice & a clash of world views’, Australian Environment Review, vol.31, no.7, pp.242-244.

Introduction to a special edition of the journal Australian Environment Review on Democracy and Environmental Justice.

Staples, J. 2015, ‘Democracy resides in participation in organisations’, Green Agenda, 5 September,

A well-functioning society needs a balance between the power of government, economic interests and the community.

Staples, J. 2015, ‘The Value of NGOs’, John Menadue – Pearls and Irritations, 6 May,

This is a reflection on the value of NGOs in our public sphere, especially in the development of public policy and how it aids both governments and citizens.

 Staples, J. 2014, ‘Environmental NGOs, Elections and Community Organising’, Australian Political Studies Conference, 29 Sept-1 Oct, Sydney University, NSW.  Click here for PDF.

This paper examines current changes within the Australian environment movement to project where the movement might be trending in coming years. It references the movement’s past history to describe why it lost its way around the turn of the century. However, it paints a more positive picture of current trends, especially community organising, and co-operative relationships between groups. The renewal is sourced to (a) new climate change groups that have benefited from US influence; and (b) the strength of domestic groups that cut across traditional political lines, such as the very successful Lock the Gate organisation.

 Staples, J. 2014, ‘Step by step, conservative forces move to silence NGOs’ voices’,  The Conversation, 26 August.

This article itemises attacks on environmental NGOs by representatives of the Abbott government, the Minerals Council and others.  It defends the democratic role of these NGOs in developing public policy.

Staples, J. 2013, ‘An Abbott Coalition Government: What can the NGO sector expect?’, Australian Political Studies Conference, 2 October, Perth. WA. Click here for PDF

Delivered immediately after the 2013 election that returned the Abbott Coalition government, this paper suggests some possible policy directions that may emerge in the light of experience with the previous Coalition Government and also statements by Tony Abbott prior to the election.

Staples, J. 2012, Non-government organisations and the Australian government: a dual strategy of public advocacy for NGOs , PhD Research thesis, UNSW. Click here for PDF. 

This thesis examines the relationship of the Australian Conservation Foundation and the Wilderness Society with the Hawke, Keating and Howard governments. It draws conclusions about the way NGOs can conduct effective advocacy and points to strategic positioning of NGOs that will produce long-term democratic outcomes.

Staples, J. 2012, ‘Environmental Policy, Environmental NGOs and the Keating Government’, Australian Political Studies Conference, 24-26 September, Hobart, Tas. Click here for PDF.

This paper examines the Keating legacy in relation to the environment and finds it wanting.

Staples, J. 2012, ‘Australian ENGOs and government’, in Crowley, K. & Walker, KJ, (eds), Environmental Policy Failure: the Australian Story, Tilde University Press, Prahan Vic.

This chapter focuses on the strategic positioning of NGOs in relation to government and in particular the important role NGOs fulfil in a pluralist democracy. It traces the recent and often fraught history of environmental NGOs in Australia in order to show how they can move on to more effective advocacy.

Staples, J. 2012, ‘Watching Aid and Advocacy’, in H. Sykes (ed.), More or Less: Democracy and New Media, Future Leaders, Melbourne.  Click here for PDF

This chapter reviews the campaign by the NGO, AidWatch, that led to the High Court decision in 2010 affirming AidWatch was not disqualified from charitable status by its public advocacy. It places the significance of the decision within the history of attempts to silence NGO advocacy in Australia, and commends the way AidWatch conducted their campaign.

Staples, J. 2009, ‘Australian Government Action in the 1980s’, in Sykes, H. (ed), Climate Change on for Young and Old, Future Leaders, Melbourne. Click here for PDF.

This chapter attempts to show how the importance of climate change was recognised by government in the 1980s. It describes how action was not limited to the Labor Party under Hawke, but that the Liberal Party’s policy under Puplick was just as strong, if not more so.

Staples, J. 2009, ‘The Rise of the ‘greenhouse mafia’ in Australia’, Australian Political Studies Conference, 27-30 September, Macquarie University, NSW. Click here for PDF.

This paper explores the political environment which gave birth to the political campaigns of the mining industry and anti-climate change lobby in Australia..

Staples, J. 2009, ‘Our Lost History of Climate Change’, Australian Policy Online, 11 November,

This article covers the bipartisan history of responses to climate change by the major political parties in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

Staples, J. 2009, ‘Environment: What was right was popular’, in Bloustein, G., Comber, B. & Mackinnon, A. (eds), The Hawke Legacy, Wakefield Press, Adelaide.

This chapter reviews the environmental legacy of the Hawke government, which was a remarkable period in Australia’s environmental history. It concludes that previous assessments of the Hawke government have given insufficient attention to the fact it was returned to power in 1990 with the assistance of environmental NGOs, that the same NGOs contributed significantly to the ALP record win in 1983 and also helped improve the ALP position at the 1987 election. However, for environmental NGOs such endorsement of the ALP was not sustainable as an advocacy strategy.

Staples, J. 2008, ‘Attacks on NGO “accountability”: Questions of governance or the logic of public choice theory?’, in J. Barraket (ed.), Strategic Issues for the Not-for-profit Sector, UNSW Press, Sydney.

This chapter unpacks the theoretical underpinning of attacks on NGOs’ ‘accountability’ and attempts to show that these attacks are often motivated by a view of NGOs that does not accept their democratic role as public advocates.

Staples, J. 2007-2008, ‘What future for the NGO sector?’, Dissent, 15-18.  Click here for PDF.

This article reviews the health of the NGO sector prior to the 2007 election following attacks on NGO advocacy by the Howard Government.  By reviewing Labor Party speeches prior to the election it claims that the ALP values NGOs for their economic-productivity value rather than any social-democratic role.

Staples, J. 2007, Why we do what we do: the democratic role of the sector, Community Sector  Futures Task Group, Victorian Council of Social Service.

This paper for the Victorian Council of Social Services describes the important advocacy role of NGOs in a pluralist democracy.

Staples, J. 2006, NGOs out in the cold: The Howard Government policy towards NGOs,  originally published as the Democratic Audit of Australia Discussion Paper No. 19/6.  Click here for PDF.

This paper attempts to clarify the attacks on NGO advocacy during the Howard government by showing links between neo-liberal public choice theory and the policies and statements of that government.