War of Words over Future of Not for Profit Sector
2 September 2013 at 4:00 pm
A war of words over the future of the Not for Profit Sector has erupted between the Liberal Coalition and the Labor Government in the final days of the election campaign.
The Opposition Coalition spokesman for Families, Housing and Human Services Kevin Andrews released a statement on Sunday saying “Labor thinks the Not for Profit sector shouldn’t exist” as Prime Minister Rudd officially launched the ALP’s election campaign.
“Desperation has now seen Labor launch a scare campaign about the Not for Profit sector. The Coalition released its policy over a year ago and it seems Labor has now caught up with our plan to cut red tape and make life for the sector easier,” Kevin Andrews said.
Labor shot back with a statement saying Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has turned his back on the Not for Profit sector.
Fairfax Media reported at the weekend that the Coalition’s plans to abolish the charity regulator, the ACNC was in part due to “the lobbying power of church conservatives, the Catholic Church in particular, and the office of Sydney Cardinal George Pell, more particularly still.”
A joint statement from Labor Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus and Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury said “today we saw another indication that the Coalition will seek to ignore the Not for Profit sector and silence them from speaking out against the savage cuts they have planned.
“Labor banned the use of the Howard Government’s ‘gag clauses’ at a Federal level and established the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC). The Coalition today confirmed they would abolish the ACNC. The question is: would the ban on gag clauses go with it?” the Labor statement said.
Kevin Andrews’ statement replied by saying that the “statement by the Attorney-General and Assistant Treasurer, both of whom didn’t turn up to the National Press Club debate about the future of the Not for Profit sector, shows either a total incompetence in understanding the sector, or a wilful attempt to mislead it.”
“The truth is, Labor would prefer if the Not for Profit sector didn’t even exist.”
The Labor statement said the Liberal State Governments in NSW and QLD have reintroduced gag clauses into contracts which prohibit charities receiving government funding from speaking out against their cuts or criticising government policy.
“The practice was first introduced by the Howard Government. This is what Liberal Governments do. John Howard did it. Campbell Newman and Barry O'Farrell did it. Tony Abbott would do it. It is in their blood,” the Labor statement said.
“The Coalition’s intention is to replace the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission with a smaller body, more focused on providing support for the sector, rather than imposing more red tape was first announced over a year ago. The ACNC has added unnecessary duplication to the sector and has not reduced reporting requirements – it has added to them,” Kevin Andrews said.
Andrews said the Coalition also voted in favour of abolishing ‘gag clauses’ from contracts with the charities sector and would not introduce them if elected.
He said the Coalition policy included a considerable reduction of red tape for family and community service agencies.
He said a Coalition government would:
- implement one contract with each agency, instead of multiple contracts;
- require the Department to negotiate the content of the contracts with the agencies, instead of simply imposing it upon them;
- simplify the auditing process to require only one financial report from each agency annually;
- replace the current system of rolling audits with an initial benchmarking audit that has a period of five years;
- simplify reporting requirements for governance arrangements, with registration as a company or unincorporated association sufficing as evidence of appropriate governance;
- require all agencies to lodge a one-page ‘annual governance return’;
- replace the current time-consuming and costly system of data collection with a series of cross-sector evaluations of programs; and
- work with the sector to ensure adequate and known whistleblower provisions are in place.
Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus and Assistant Treasurer David Bradbury concluded their statement saying Federal Labor has put in place the foundations so that the NFP sector has the opportunity to grow and thrive.