Time Rescues Charity Definition
12 December 2013 at 3:30 pm
Time appears to have saved the Charities Act from the Coalition Government’s plan to delay the definition of charity until late next year.
On the final sitting day for the Federal Senate, the Greens introduced a number of amendments to stop some of the 13 policy changes including the delay of the new charity definition included in the Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2013.
However, the Senate ran out of time for debate and a vote, which will mean it’s likely that the Charities Act, which was passed in Parliament on June 27, will commence on January 1 as originally planned.
Greens spokesperson on families and community services, Senator Rachel Siewert told Parliament the Coalition Government was holding the Not for Profit sector in contempt in its attempts to introduce a "grab bag" of social policy changes in the last days of Parliament.
“This Bill is a grab bag of social policy, a few of which we can support, most of which is unacceptable," she said.
“The Bill seeks to undermine two major pieces of reform from the previous Parliament, by repealing the reforms in the National Gambling Reform Act 2012 and delaying the implementation of the Charities Act 2013.
“Refining the definition of charity has been on the political agenda for over 10 years, and that the passage of the legislation earlier this year was overwhelmingly welcomed and accepted by the charitable sector.
“The charities who spoke to the (Communities) Committee were caught completely unaware of the Government's intention to postpone the implementation of the Bill. Slipping this amendment in to what was already a huge omnibus bill at the 11th hour was completely inappropriate.
“None of the submitters to the inquiry could point to a clear reason why the Government would defer the implementation of the Act.
“Given that one of the stated aims of the government is to reduce red-tape on the charities sector, delaying the implementation of the Charities Bill is completely contrary to that goal.
“Submitters pointed to the significant legal costs that charities face in trying to understand the charities case law – the Charities Act will actually reduce red-tape and uncertainty in the sector.
“The Government would not treat business like this, so why has it shown such complete disregard for our charitable sector, which is one of the biggest employers in Australia.
“The Australian Greens would be extremely concerned if the purpose of further consultation is to try and wind back the advocacy component of the Bills.
“Undermining the role of advocacy will only put more pressure on charities who speak upon public policy. One of the biggest risks that charities face is the revocation of their DGR status for failing to operate within their state charitable purpose.
“There were several attempts during the Howard Government to undermine organisations, such as the The Wilderness Society, by challenging their DGR status. So if the goal is to dismantle the legislative protection for advocacy, this is extremely disappointing.”
Community Council for Australia CEO David Crosbie said neither he nor Chairman and World Vision CEO Tim Costello were aware of why the government had sought to delay implementation of the charities legislation, especially given the new definition enjoys widespread support.
“Today’s outcome is a victory for common sense that will benefit charities across Australia now and into the future,” Crosbie said.
“The charities sector welcomes the support of the Australian Senate.”