Senate Inquiry Debates ACNC Future
27 May 2014 at 11:30 am
Supporters and detractors of the the charity regulator, the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, have given evidence to the Senate inquiry into the Coalition Government’s Repeal Bill in Canberra amid claims that no formal consultation had taken place with the sector.
Some 154 submissions have been been uploaded to the Senate Inquiry site with more than 80 per cent supporting the retention of the ACNC.
Thirteen organisations and individuals gave evidence at Friday’s Senate inquiry public hearing. Seven of those supported the repeal of the ACNC Act.
The Australian Charities and Not-for-profit Commission (Repeal) (No 1) Bill 2014 was introduced into the House of Representatives on March 19 and referred to the Senate Economics Legislation Committee on March 27 for inquiry and report. Submissions to the Committee closed on May 2.
The Inquiry hearing was chaired by Liberal Senator David Bushby. Evidence given in support for the ACNC included welfare peak body ACOSS and community peak body, the Community Council for Australia.
One of the submissions opposing the retention of the ACNC came from a private submission from Peter Hersh in his capacity as a director of Logicca Chartered Accounts.
He told the inquiry that large charities structured as companies limited by guarantee are equivalent to public companies and should be subject to oversight by ASIC.
“A charity that feels it does not require ASIC regulation is free to structure itself differently. The ACNC has failed to reduce red tape and has practically increased red tape for small charities,” he said.
“In my mind, it should be abolished.”
Australian Greens spokesperson on family and community services, Senator Rachel Siewert, is on the Inquiry committee.
“The Government has not developed a replacement for the ACNC, so any move to scrap the regulator would lead to confusion and instability across the Not for Profit and charity sector,” Senator Siewert said after Friday’s hearing.
"It is obvious from questioning of the Department that they have not adequately consulted with the sector and that proposals for a replacement process are still being developed.
"There is overwhelming support in the sector for an independent regulator and rejection of the ATO becoming the regulator again.
"I agree with Mr Robert Fitzgerald's evidence to the inquiry, that getting rid of the ACNC would entrench a failed regulatory system.
"The Parliament is being asked to repeal the ACNC before Government says what the new approach will be. This is unacceptable.
“There has not been proper consultation over the plans to get rid of the ACNC. The government has consulted with who they wanted to on their proposal, not on what the sector really wanted.
“Parliament is being asked to get rid of a functioning organisation, but we have no idea what the Government processes to replace it will be.
“We don’t even know if there will be an independent regulator, something which is clearly needed. There is a lack of transparency around the process being used to develop an alternative.
“The Government knows that the ATO is not an adequate replacement, nor is ASIC, so maybe they are stuck for an alternative.
“There is clearly strong ongoing support for the ACNC and the government should not throw the baby out with the bathwater,” she said.
The inquiry is due to deliver its report on June 16.
The transcript of the Senate hearing can be found HERE.
Read Professor Ann O’Connell’s Opinion on the Senate Inquiry Hearing HERE.