Andrews Announces Move to End ACNC
5 December 2013 at 9:28 am
Federal Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews has revealed his first move to axe the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission.
Andrews outlined the plans at the Disability Services CEO Conference and in Parliament yesterday during a debate on the Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2013.
“To benefit civil society as a whole, the Government has committed to abolishing the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission, with repeal legislation to be introduced into Parliament next year,” Andrews said in his speech at the Disability Services CEO Conference.
“In the interim the government is considering what interim measures are available to it in order to begin winding down the Commission’s operations.
“Until legislation is passed to that effect, the Government is assessing options for winding down the operations and work of the Commission.
“We will continue to consult with the sector on these reforms, to ensure a smooth transition.
“We are doing this because we believe the relationship between government and civil society that it funds is important and cannot be taken for granted.
“I have explained it previously as a relationship that requires government to balance the need for accountability of public finance with the trust and confidence that the community holds for these organisations.
“It is a relationship in which the government should seek to empower civil society, and not itself. So civil society is free to get on doing what it does best, which is to respond to the issues of concern within our communities.”
In Parliament, Andrews said that the Government was committed to consulting with the sector on abolishing the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission and establishing a centre for excellence and a possible national register of charities.
The Coalition Government has also moved to delay the introduction of the new definition of charity.
“I will also shortly be moving government amendments to introduce a new measure to the Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2013,” Andrews said.
“The new measure will delay the commencement of the Charities Act 2013 by nine months from 1 January 2014 to 1 September 2014.”
The Charities Act 2013 defines "charity" and "charitable purpose" for the purposes of all Commonwealth legislation.
“The government has committed to consulting with the sector on abolishing the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission and establishing a centre for excellence and a possible national register of charities,” Andrews said.
“The delay will mean we can work holistically with civil society, consulting a range of stakeholders, including charity law specialists who provide advice to the sector.”
A pre-election Not for Profit survey, initiated by Pro Bono Australia and conducted by Tomorrow’s Agenda Research Institute (part of the Net Balance network) and the Community Council for Australia, found that 81 per cent of respondents thought the establishment of the ACNC was important.
According to Community Council for Australia CEO David Crosbie, the Not for Profit sector had 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”.
“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,” Crosbie said on the first anniversary of the establishment of the ACNC on December 3.
Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh said the Coalition Government had a tin ear for genuine dialogue with the charitable sector, which overwhelmingly wanted to keep the first national charity regulator.
“At the same time the Minister said he’ll listen to the sector. How patronising,” Dr Leigh said.
“The ACNC is the result of years of consultation and listening by Labor to the Not for Profit sector.
“The sector supports an independent regulator as a one-stop shop to strengthen charities, grow their profile and reduce red tape over time. The ACNC is based on a robust Productivity Commission inquiry.
“Mr Andrews claims to want to assist the sector but is deaf to it.”
The Australian Greens said the Government is showing continuing disregard for the Not for Profit sector, commencing action to repeal the ACNC.
"The ACNC's purpose is to ensure more transparency and accountability of the Not for Profit sector and yet the Government is committed to abolishing it," Senator Rachel Siewert, Australian Greens spokesperson on families and community services, said.
"Minister Kevin Andrews has started this process by moving an amendment to the Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2013, which will delay the commencement of the Charities Act 2013 by nine months from 1 January 2014 to 1 September 2014.
"This amendment was quietly slipped into a convoluted grab-bag Bill. The Government included this amendment at the least minute and obviously were hoping to avoid scrutiny of their actions, given they did not want an Inquiry into this Bill.
"As the Government moves to axe the ACNC, we have the ridiculous situation of Mr Brough calling for more transparency of the sector, that certainly won't happen if Mr Andrews gets rid of the Commission…
"The Not for Profit sector undertakes crucial work across the country that would otherwise fall on Government. The Coalition should be supporting and strengthening the sector, not working to destabilise them.
"The Minister needs to make a formal announcement about the consultation process he will undertake to allow service providers to have their say on this potentially significant and detrimental decision."
ACNC Commissioner Susan Pascoe AO had previously said that no matter what the outcome there would always be a need for an organisation to register and regulate charities.
“We are pleased and happy to work with the Government on whatever it wants to introduce. We want to be part of the solution,” she said.