Balance of Power Senators Not ACNC Friendly
26 June 2014 at 11:54 am
Incoming minority party Senators – who will share the balance of power when the Senate changes over next week – are yet to make up their mind about their support or otherwise for the charity regulator, the ACNC, or the value of a National Centre for Excellence.
However, some of the minority party Senators admit they are not ACNC friendly.
South Australian Senator-elect Bob Day from the Family First Party told Pro Bono Australia News he was inclined to support the Government’s decision to repeal the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) but said the Centre for Excellence could provide good advice to the Government about charities.
“I fear that the ACNC will essentially become a ‘regulatory capture’ vehicle and will tend to grow overtime into a self protection body. So before it evolves into this I think it’s a good idea to stop,” Day said.
[Wikipedia describes ‘regulatory capture’ as a form of political corruption that occurs when a regulatory agency, created to act in the public interest, instead advances the commercial or special concerns of interest groups that dominate the industry or sector it is charged with regulating.]
“While these organisations like the ACNC are well meaning they can’t help be overtaken and becoming industry associations and only acting in the best interests of themselves.
“They tend to grow overtime into self protectionist and quasi licensing bodies.”
Day said that from his extensive industry experience he was fearful that the ACNC would go the same way as these industry bodies … “a lot of window dressing but not in the best interest of consumers”.
He said however he was not a fan of the Australian Tax Office and had some concerns about their sole control of charities.
He agreed that there should be an online register of charities for people to search and there should be a body that oversees this like the National Centre for Excellence.
“The National Centre for Excellence should only be a registration portal for people to go online,” he said.
The Family First Senator was elected in South Australia at the 2013 Federal election. A former Adelaide businessman, he was the founder of various home building companies operating in Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.
NSW Senator elect, David Leyonhjelm from the Liberal Democratic Party, said he still needed to investigate the issues around the ACNC Repeal Bill and the future of a charity regulator.
He said he was not sure whether abolishing the ACNC and replacing it with something else would leave the country in a useful situation.
“I don’t accept that the charity sector doesn’t need significant scrutiny and transparency,” he said.
“I’m dead against organisations that have DGR status (Deductible Gift Recipient) and operate as advocacy organisations.
“Charities take a lot of money in good faith and then don’t do much with it so I think there is a need for significant transparency so that donors know where their money is going.”
Senator-elect Leyonhjelm said he was being ear bashed about the ACNC Repeal Legislation but he would not be able to get his head around it until he had staff and time to fully consider it.
He said he did not expect the Repeal Bill to return to Parliament until the August sitting.
A spokesperson for the Senators entering Parliament representing the Palmer United Party said no decision had been made on the ACNC Repeal Bill.
The PUP will have as many as four votes in the new Senate (including the support of Australian Motoring Enthusiast Ricky Muir). These include Glen Lazarus from Queensland, Zhenya Wang from Western Australia and Jackie Lambie from Tasmania.
“This will be taken into consideration by Palmer United Party senators-elect after they take their place in the Senate from July 1,” the spokesperson said.
Democratic Labour Party Senator John Madigan also appears undecided and has been reported as saying that he needs to see the detail of the Repeal Bill before finalising his position, and that there must be transparent processes and rigorous accountability.
Independent Senator Nick Xenophon has already flagged his support for the ACNC and his opposition to the Repeal Bill along with Greens Senators and the Labor Opposition.
The Greens will have ten Senators in the new Parliament – one more than the previous Parliament.
“It was clear from the Senate Inquiry into the ACNC repeal legislation that the Government has not developed their replacement model for the ACNC,” Greens Senator Rachel Siewert said.
“I'm also deeply concerned about the ATO being the regulator, which I suspect is going to happen.
“The Government are trying to scrap the agency without having its replacement ready to go, there is no outline of what the replacement will look like, what functions it will have, how it will operate and how key issues like regulation and red tape reduction will be handled.
“This shows me they have a lack of genuine interest in seeing an independent and robust regulator in place and no real respect for the sector itself.
“I have no faith in the Government’s ability to develop and deliver a National Centre of Excellence that will support the long term vibrancy and viability of the sector. It seems like a thought bubble,” she said.
Earlier this month a divided Senate Committee report into the legislation to abolish the charity regulator saw Liberal Senators favouring the ACNC’s repeal, and Labor and the Greens opposing the legislation.
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.
Liberal Senator and Chair of the Senate Committee David Bushby said the committee had considered the evidence and formed the view that the abolition of the ACNC would, as intended, relieve the regulatory burden from many charities.
“Furthermore, it fully endorses the establishment of a National Centre of Excellence as an advocate for the sector and a leader in innovation and as a means of providing education, training and development opportunities,” he said.