ACNC - Surviving One Year On
3 December 2013 at 10:57 am
Today marks the first anniversary of Australia’s first national charity regulator, the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, with supporters agreeing that a lot has been achieved but there is still a way to go especially in relation to the reduction of red tape.
At the same time the ACNC has been under a cloud since the September Federal election with the new Coalition Government saying it would dismantle the ACNC.
“The Not for Profit sector has been clamouring for an independent regulator for over a decade and has been supported in this call by the Productivity Commission, the Senate and numerous other inquiries and reports,” according to Community Council for Australia CEO, David Crosbie.
“Now that the ACNC is finally up and running after such an extensive period of consultation and initial planning, it is very rewarding to see what an outstanding job it is doing in responding to the needs of the charities sector, other stakeholders and the general public.
“What is even more pleasing is that the vast majority of people across the sector recognise the benefits of the ACNC now and into the future. Like business, the Not for Profit sector craves stability in order to plan for the future and build on their strengths.
“All new regulators invariably struggle to translate their empowering legislation into real policies and practices. This is especially complicated when the sector they have to work with encompasses a very wide diversity of organisations from huge corporate like structures to very small and inexperienced local groups.
“We can only hope the critical role of the ACNC will not be undermined for the sake of fulfilling pre-election posturing – it is the last thing the sector needs or wants. Then again, there is already good evidence that governments do not always think that what the sector needs or wants is important.”
Australian Greens Senator Rachel Siewert said that those supporting the Federal Coalition’s plan to abolish the the ACNC should be careful about what they wish for.
“The move to abolish the newly established Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission is another disappointing decision from the Government, and is one that has significant implications for the community sector,” Senator Siewert wrote in an opinion article for Pro Bono Australia News.
“The mantras about ‘reducing red tape’ and ‘the best for the sector’ just don't ring true.
“Moves that effectively put the ATO in charge of regulation of the Not for Profit sector are a step backwards and cannot be good for simplified administration and a reduction in red tape.”
The Minister for Social Services Kevin Andrews told Pro Bono Australia News in October he would begin consultations to discuss its transition plans for the Not for Profit sector including the future of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) and his plans for a Centre for Excellence as well as a national register of charities.
In August a major Not for Profit sector survey by peak body the Community Council for Australia and Tomorrow’s Agenda Research Institute, and initiated by Pro Bono Australia, reported a strong preference for the newly established ACNC, when compared to the Australian Tax Office.
The survey found that the establishment of the ACNC was important (81 per cent) along with the Office of the Not for Profit Sector (73 per cent).
Regulation by the ACNC was the most supported preference for the type of regulatory framework (44 per cent), while only a small proportion of respondents supported regulation by the Australian Tax Office (6 per cent).
Since coming to office the Coalition Government has abolished the National Compact along with the Social Inclusion Board and the Not-for-profit Sector Reform Council.
ACNC Commissioner Susan Pascoe AO said the organisation had continued to carry out its operations despite uncertainties and in November registered another 300 charities.
“No matter what the outcome there will always be a need for an organisation to register and regulate charities,” Pascoe said.
“We are pleased and happy to work with the Government on whatever it wants to introduce. We want to be part of the solution.”