Charities Absent from ACNC Options Forums
24 July 2014 at 10:11 am
The Not for Profit sector has been significantly underrepresented at Federal Government consultations on the future of charity regulation in Australia, reports Pro Bono Australia News journalist Jackie Hanafie.
Despite the Forums being aimed specifically at charities to provide an opportunity to discuss the proposed alternative arrangements replacing the charity regulator, the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC), the most recent sessions in Sydney were mostly attended by lawyers, auditors and accountants who consult to the sector.
Not for Profit peak body leader David Crosbie has described the Forum consultations as a “predetermined tin-eared exercise in tokenism”.
The sessions were facilitated by the Federal Department of Social Services (DSS), with representatives from the DSS, the ATO and ASIC – the agencies that will take the brunt of the work from the ACNC – all present.
The agenda focussed on the key components of the newly released Options Paper including self-reporting, determining charitable status, compliance and transitional arrangements.
While the DSS made allowances for open discussion, the conversation was kept strictly to the four components of the Options Paper without much divergence.
The key concerns arising from the discussion were around charities’ ability to self-report – particularly for those smaller charities that don’t necessarily have a website and the way in which the ATO will handle the information, a charities register and all of the other work that has gone into establishing the ACNC.
The DSS, however, had no tangible response to these concerns and the reason the consultations were taking place was so that they could inform the new legislation.
Pro Bono Australia News understands that representatives from the ACNC were not consulted on the Options Paper and were not invited to attend the consultations.
“This ‘consultation’ is the kind of consultation you have when you are not interested in consulting, so it is not surprising the charities and members of the Not for Profit sector are voting with their feet,” Community Council for Australia Chief Executive Officer David Crosbie said.
“There is no fairness in the way the sector or the community are being treated in this process. The agenda of protecting the bigger hitters in the financial sector and elsewhere seems to be driving the government policy agenda, reflecting a complete disregard for the thousands of submissions, hundreds of hours of consultations, numerous considered reports, broad based surveys and ongoing feedback from across the charities sector, all supporting the position that the ACNC is a positive step forward for the sector and we do not want to go back to the bad old days of the ATO and ASIC.
“You can spin it however you want, make up your own version of what you want to call a consultation, but the facts are the facts. Every consultation and inquiry process, even this predetermined tin-eared exercise in tokenism, has found the charities sector wants to keep the ACNC.
“As one leading charity said to me about the consultation – ‘it is a joke – we are being asked do we want to have our arm or our leg amputated with a chainsaw – what kind of choice is that?’,” Crosbie said.
Similar Forums have already been held in Melbourne, Brisbane, Hobart, Canberra and Perth.
The Not for Profit sector has until August 20 to make written submissions on the Options Paper using the template available at the Department of Social Services website.
The Department of Social Services says it would publish a summary of written submissions on its website in September.
The Options Paper can be found HERE.