Changes to Charity Regulator Bill Recommended
Wednesday, 15th August 2012 at 5:04 pm
A Parliamentary review of the Draft Bill establishing Australia’s first Charity Regulator, the ACNC, has recommended key changes around reporting and removing the burden of red tape for the Not for Profit sector.
The Report on the Exposure Draft of the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profit Commission (ACNC) Bill 2012 was presented by the Chair of the Standing Committee on Economics, Julie Owens to Federal Parliament.
The report addresses key issues raised by the sector including the burden of red tape, director liability, accessing core information from other sources, a five year statutory review and issues around the publication of certain information such as personal details of Private Ancillary Funds (PAFS) and Trustees.
Owens told Parliament there had been issues and some scepticism around the legislation’s ability to reduce red tape in the Not for Profit sector.
She said the Committee had made suggestions to address this in the 11 recommendations.
Owens said the Committee made recommendations to increase the flexibility for the Commission and the sector by allowing the Commission to accept reports and materials from other agencies for a limited time, and to annex existing and sector developed standards to the Bills.
“The second policy area was the liability of directors, trustees and management committees for the conduct of their organisations.
“Key stakeholders were very concerned about how these provisions would operate. The committee found the legislation and explanatory materials unclear and noted that at times they did not appear to match the policy intent.
Julie Owens told Pro Bono Australia that in the area of director liability, the Committee recommended that the Government completely re-write the section to clarify its intention.
“The third main policy area revolved around procedural fairness. The committee has made a number of recommendations to ensure that organisations are notified and have the opportunity to respond prior to enforcement action,” Owens said.
The report also recommends additional flexibility be introduced via regulation rather than legislation. It also calls on the Government to investigate ways to strengthen protection in the Bills for private donors who wish to keep their philanthropy private.
Overall Owens said the Bills, with the recommendations of the Committee, give the ACNC Commissioner more flexibility which in turn gives added power to the sector for negotiation.
The Gillard Government made major revisions to the draft ACNC legislation in early July calling for sector feedback before the revised legislation went to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics for an inquiry over the Winter Parliamentary break.
The report concludes that, subject to their recommendations, Parliament should pass the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Bill 2012 and the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (Consequential and Transitional) Bill 2012.
However, the Liberal opposition members of the Committee produced a dissenting report saying: “It is the view of the Liberal members of the Committee that the Government has failed to establish how the ACNC will interact with other State and Federal Government agencies to reduce the duplication of regulation across the sector.”
It says the Government has failed to satisfy the Liberal members of the Committee that any progress has been made with key agencies such as the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations in relation to this process, or with the State Governments through COAG.
“The Liberal members of the Committee are convinced that if agreement in this space is not reached, these Bills will result in an additional layer of bureaucracy and regulatory burden for Not for Profit agencies already struggling to meet the current demands of government.”
The ACNC Bills are expected to be introduced into Parliament later this month.