Greens Amendments Seal ACNC Fate
1 November 2012 at 9:31 am
The Australian Greens amendments to the Australian Charities and Not-for-profit Commission Bill (ACNC) which passed through both Houses of Federal Parliament have sealed the fate of the charity regulator.
The historic passage of the legislation paves the way for the ACNC to begin operation in early December, 2012 – two months after the proposed launch date.
“The Australian Greens and the Government have worked hard to improve this Bill, which will enable the operation of a more efficient and effective Not for Profit sector,” Greens Senator Rachel Siewert said.
“One of our most significant recommendations sought to ensure the independence of the Not for Profit sector. The Government has now committed to legislation to prevent gag clauses – a critical step for ensuring organisations are not prevented from advocating for their causes and clients.
“Not for Profit organisations have consistently identified red tape reduction as an important area which needs to be addressed. I am confident that this legislation strikes a sensible balance between transparency and accountability and the burden of reporting.
"Other recommendations have ensured that there will be annual reports to Parliament on the progress of the Commission towards red-tape reduction, as well as ensuring that the Governance Standards will be outcome focused, and based on consultation with the sector.”
Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Bill 2012 and a related bill were approved in a Senate Division which resulted in a 35 to 29 vote in favour of the Legislation on Wednesday October 31.
Chair designate of the ACNC Advisory Board, Robert Fitzgerald heralded the passage of the legislation as a major advance for Australian charities.
“Since the mid 1990s every inquiry, as well as the not-for-profit sector itself has been calling for a specialist, national regulator. Now it is set to become a reality,” he said.
“I have every confidence that the new Commission will serve to support and enhance our country’s valuable not-for-profit sector. It will also deliver for the Australian community at large.”
ACNC Commissioner designate, Susan Pascoe explained that one of the first things the new regulator will deliver will be a register of Australian charities, which will benefit both the broader Australian public and the charitable sector.
“The online ACNC Register will make it possible for people to find basic information about registered charities easily, helping them make informed choices about the charities they choose to support.
“The Register will also be an effective way for charities of all sizes to demonstrate that they are registered and that they have a legitimate charitable purpose,” Pascoe said.
“Initially only basic information will be available on the ACNC Register, including the name of the charity, its Australian Business Number (ABN), the state or territory it is registered in and a link to its entry on the Australian Business Register (ABR). In time, this information will expand to include financial and governance information.”
The Australian Institute of Company Directors has welcome the amendments made to the ACNC legislation.
“The amendments made to enable parliamentary scrutiny of the external governance and conduct standards have strengthened the Bill,” AICD CEO John Colvin said.
“While the Bill in its final form did not address all of our concerns, we are optimistic that we can work with the new ACNC Commissioner to create outcomes that will create an appropriate environment that fosters good governance among charities.
“We will be engaging with the Commission to try and ensure that volunteerism within the directors community is not adversely affected by this legislation. This includes how the ACNC intends to exercise its powers relating to volunteer directors, and what further steps can be taken to encourage harmonisation of laws governing charities.
Critical to the effectiveness of this Bill is its ability to reduce red tape and the regulatory burden felt by charities. We call on Federal and State Governments to continue to work together to resolve the issues relating to duplication of regulatory powers”.
Assistant Treasurer, David Bradbury said that after numerous reviews and reports, more than 12 months of extensive consultation and stakeholder engagement, and three Parliamentary Committee inquiries into the legislation, the ACNC will finally begin operation in early December.
“The new national regulator will drive reform to reduce the regulatory burden on the sector. At the Commonwealth level, the ACNC will administer a 'charity passport' and work to implement a 'report-once, use-often reporting framework,” Bradbury said.
“The charity passport is a collection of data that charities will report once to the ACNC to meet the baseline corporate and financial reporting requirements of Australian Government agencies, and will be a vital component of how the ACNC will be able to deliver reductions in red tape.”