Greens Hold Key to ACNC Future
11 September 2012 at 9:58 am
The passage of the legislation to establish Australia’s first charity regulator, the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, is set to be embroiled in party politics after the a Joint Parliamentary Committee tabled its Advisory Report to Parliament yesterday.
The report recommended that all three Bills needed to establish the first charity regulator be passed, however, the Coalition members of the Committee included a dissenting report saying its committee members do not support passage of any of the three bills.
The bills required to establish the ACNC are the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Bill 2012; the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (Consequential and Transitional) Bill 2012; and the Tax Laws Amendment (Special Conditions for Not-for-profit Concessions) Bill 2012.
The Committee was made up of five ALP members, four Liberal members and one member of the Australian Greens. No Independent MPs were on the Committee.
The Greens member of the Joint Parliamentary Committee, WA Senator Rachel Siewert, also listed separate recommendations to the main report including that the Bills should not be passed without amendments.
Senator Siewert recommended that Parliament “defer the elements of the Bill that can be deferred until the complimentary Charities definition legislation is completed”.
Pro Bono Australia contacted all Federal Independent members to seek their views on voting for or against the passage of the Australian Charity and Not-for-profit Commission (ACNC) Bills which are expected to be considered in coming weeks.
Rob Oakeshott, the NSW independent Member for Lyne, told Pro Bono Australia that he would “more than likely vote yes” to the Legislation.
“I will be voting for it and consider it quite historic,” he said.
“I say “more than likely” because I don’t normally flag where I am going to vote until I actually do. There may be some sort of detail that emerges, or needs correcting, that has not emerged yet. That is my only condition in my response.”
Andrew Wilkie, the Tasmanian Independent Member for Denison said: “I’m yet to meet with all stakeholders and decide whether or not to support the Bill.”
A spokesperson for South Australian Independent, Nick Xenophon said his position on this legislation is yet to be determined.
“The Committee processes were quite rushed and Nick will be looking to go through the legislation with a fine tooth comb. He is very supportive of the establishment of a Charity Commission but also wants to make sure the legislation does what it is intended to do.”
No other Independents have provided their voting intentions so far.
The report made several ALP-supported recommendations including:
- Amending the definition of a ‘basic religious charity’ (BRC) in the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Bill 2012 so that an entity can retain their current status as a BRC where they operate a school building fund with deductible gift recipient status within the entity
- Reviewing the thresholds for annual reporting as part of the five year review of the operation of the ACNC
- Amending the Bill so that the ACNC will accept school’s reporting data from the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority
- Once the ACNC is established, promptly engaging stakeholders to devise the governance and reporting requirements for the sector
In relation to the ‘In Australia’ Bill, the Committee recommended that:
- The ATO circulate guidance material relating to Schedule 1, Item 38 of the Taxation Law Amendment (Special Conditions for Not-for-profit Concessions) Bill 2012
- Treasury issue guidance material in relation to proposed section 995-1(1) of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1997, which will state the intent and intended consequence of the definition; state that the definition is intended to align with definitions of a ‘Not for Profit company’ in other statutes; and clarify that where entities return any surplus to the Not for Profit purpose, the entity shall not lose its tax exempt status
However a dissenting report from the Coalition members said they do not support passage of any of the three bills.
“Coalition members of the Committee do not accept that the current Commonwealth regulatory regime, based on the activities of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission and the Australian Taxation Office, is broken, and therefore do not accept the premise for this new regulatory megastructure,” it said.
“We are unpersuaded by claims that this reform will reduce the regulatory burden faced by the sector.
“The Coalition members support the establishment of a small Charities Commission as an educative and training body for the sector.”
The Coalition’s dissenting report concluded that the Coalition members of the Committee were unable to support passage of these bills because the mischief that the main bill seeks to address has not been adequately identified and the claims that it will deliver a reduction in red tape are wholly implausible.
“Its real effect will be to do the opposite – that is to impose an additional costly compliance regime, when the sector already faces enough red tape. “
The CEO of the Community Council of Australia David Crosbie says he is meeting with Andrew Wilkie today to discuss his support for the Legislation.
“We expect the Legislation to pass through the Lower House of Parliament with the Greens supporting the Government and despite continuing opposition from the Coalition.
“The issue will be whether the Legislation will pass the Upper House by accommodating the amendments of the Greens without delaying the start date of the ACNC on october 1st.”
Crosbie said that a report by the Senate’s Community Affairs Committee is expected to be delivered late tomorrow and would provide some further clarity around support for the Legislation.
Earlier, the National Roundtable of Nonprofit Organisations called on the community sector to urge all members of Federal Parliament to pass the national charity regulator Legislation or face being ‘jilted at the altar’ yet again.
Roundtable Chair and CEO of Jobs Australia, David Thompson, said the sector must garner the support of all politicians including the Independents to make sure the Legislation gets over the line in coming weeks.
“We have been waiting way too long for regulatory reform of the Not for Profit sector and a whole forest has been felled to print the the thousands of submissions made to various inquiries over the years,” he said.
“The bottom line is that the introduction of the national charity regulator is for the common good and in the national interest.”
Thompson said there are now more than 12 million words on 39,000 pages on the public record on the case for and the nature of necessary and desirable Not for Profit regulatory reform in Australia.