Coalition Opposes Charity Definition
18 June 2013 at 4:23 pm
The Liberal National Coalition has told Federal Parliament that it will repeal the new definition of Charities Bill if it gains office at the September election.
The Coalition also confirmed it would abolish the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) and replace it with a small ‘centre for excellence’ run by the sector.
On Monday, community and philanthropic organisations joined forces to urge all members of Parliament to pass the Charities Bill 2013, which was debated and passed in the House of Representatives on Tuesday.
Eleven peak community and philanthropic groups, including Community Council for Australia, Philanthropy Australia and Changemakers Australia called for an all-party approach to deliver “essential reforms” they claim are vital for the charitable sector.
However, the Shadow Minister for Families, Housing and Human Services, Kevin Andrews said in his Second Reading speech: “This is a bad bill; this is an unnecessary bill.”
“Since Federation, the definition of 'charity' has remained clear and consistent," he said.
“The definition has survived for over 400 years. It is based on a legal concept from the early 1600s. It is widely understood, and it is unilaterally accepted. But now the definition that has served us so well is in this government's firing line.”
“The government is now seeking to pretend that there is some desperate need to legislate in this area, acting as though it is charting new waters," Andrews said.
“The reality is that it was the former Howard government that looked at the issue of the common-law definition of charity. The former coalition government enacted the Extension of Charitable Purposes Act 2004 which confined itself to enlarging the legal definition of charity for federal purposes to include child care, self-help groups and closed orders. The Commonwealth's definitional extension has not been adopted by any state jurisdiction.
“This bill would be the first time that legislation has sought to comprehensively define in statute, for the purposes of Commonwealth law, charity. Our concern is clear: why create a statute where the common law has and does serve us well? Why depart from 400 years of clarity and consistency?”
Kevin Andrews said if elected to Government later this year, the colaition will repeal the legislation.
He also confirmed that the Coalition would abolish the new charity regulator, the ACNC.
“We will shift the focus of the new Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission away from endless compliance and regulation to one that encourages innovation, education and best practice in the sector,” Andrews said.
“The Coalition voted against the legislation, choosing to ignore the overwhelming evidence backing up this reform and the strong support of stakeholders," the Assistant Treasurer, David Bradbury said.
“Tony Abbott and Kevin Andrews are still stuck in the 1600s, whilst everybody else has moved on to the 21st Century.”
“The legislation has been the subject of extensive consultation, with more than 200 submissions on public consultation papers and draft legislation,” the Minister for Social Inclusion, Mark Butler.
The Coalition has set up a website outlining its reform plans for the Not for Profit sector .