Federal Opposition Slams Charity Regulator Bill
25 July 2012 at 3:16 pm
The Federal Opposition claims the proposed legislation to set up Australia’s first charity regulator fails to simplify or ease the regulatory burden on Not for Profits.
Kevin Andrews, Shadow Minister for Families, Housing and Human Services
Addressing the Associations Forum National Conference in Brisbane, the Federal Shadow Minister for Families, Housing and Human Services, Kevin Andrews said the proposed Charities and Not-for-Profit Commission, the ACNC, is now under assault.
“Under the pretext of simplifying and easing the regulatory burden on associations, the Federal Government proposed the new regulatory body, the ACNC but what was promised and what has emerged from the bureaucracy are poles apart,” Andrews said.
“A primary concern of the Labor Party’s reform was that it should reduce administrative compliance and duplication of reporting by agencies, enabling them to direct more of their limited resources to their charitable and related activities.
“Yet the Bill fails to meet this objective. It fails to provide any basis for the reporting requirements of companies limited by guarantee to be transferred to the ACNC; for relevant parts of the Not for Profit reporting requirements of Commonwealth agencies to be transferred to the ACNC; for any clear commitment to obtaining the agreement for the rationalisation of government reporting requirements between the ACNC and the relevant State and Territory authorities.
He said that the Federal Minister responsible for the ACNC legislation, David Bradbury, had conceded that it will require “more time for work to be completed”, and agreed that the Commission was not going to “solve all the problems overnight”.
Kevin Andrews told the AFN Conference that far from saving associations the financial resources that could be best directed to their community activities, the new system would cost them more.
“The Baptist Church alone has estimated that it will have to spend an additional $1 million per annum of scarce resources to meet the new requirements,” he said.
“The ACNC Bill is an extraordinary reach by government into the affairs of civil society. It assumes that people who give of their time and efforts, often in a voluntary capacity, are untrustworthy and tainted.
“Furthermore, it is being introduced at a time when international practice is going in the other direction. New Zealand is closing its Commission and efficiency initiatives in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Singapore also reflect this trend."
He said while the Federal Coalition recognised that there is a place for a national body to enhance the role of the institutions of civil society he repeated his support for a small Commission as an educative and training body.
“We will work with the sector to ensure that it represents the sector. We will work with the sector to transfer responsibility and governance of the Commission to the sector over the next few years."
Under the Coalition, Andrews said an independent charities commission will:
- Provide education and support services to registered charities
- Provide information to assist with the process of registration for new charities and Not for Profit agencies
- Act as a ‘one-stop shop’ for information on charitable organisations and agencies operating within Australia
- Advocate for the rights of charities and NFP agencies
- Represent the interests of charities and NFP agencies to government
- Help facilitate the interaction between government and the charitable sector
- Undertake research and cross-sector evaluations on issues of concern to the sector
- Help foster innovation within the sector
He told the Conference that the Coalition would retain the current Common Law definition of charity and maintain the Public Benefit Test.
“This is consistent with the evidence-based reviews of the 2001 Charities Definition Inquiry, the 2008 Henry Review, and the 2010 Productivity Commission report,” he said.
“It has been suggested that the Charities Sector needs review and regulation because the sector receives substantial tax concessions. Arguments about tax concessions for charities and NFPs do not belong in the consultation and formulation of policy on the definition of charity, the ACNC, NFP governance arrangements and charitable fundraising.
“Instead, tax reforms should be considered in specific responses such as the “unrelated business income test” (UBIT) and “in Australia” proposed reforms."
Kevin Andrews said the Coalition will work with the sector to address any particular issues that arise regarding the taxation treatment of charitable organisations.
“We will not use discreet taxation issues as a Trojan Horse to impose a burdensome new regulatory system on the sector.”