New Three Word Slogans, Politics and NFPs
10 February 2015 at 9:01 am
In the light of the latest political “refocusing” by Prime Minister Abbott, the Government will need to hit the reset button on its relationship with the charities and Not for Profit sector, writes David Crosbie, CEO of Community Council for Australia.
Our current Prime Minister is telling all who will listen that he is refocusing his Government around three key issues: jobs, families and security.
As a new national political agenda, these words make sense. If this new messaging is to be more than political rhetoric, however, it will require the Federal Government to hit the reset button on the Government’s relationship with the charities and NFP sector.
"Creating jobs" is a popular policy agenda. We all want jobs and most jobs are actually good for our health and wellbeing.
"Stronger families" is clearly a popular policy agenda. We are all part of families and we all want them to do well. Who wants families to fail?
"Security" is another obviously popular agenda. Australians want to be safe in their communities.
What is most interesting about these three words: jobs, families and security, is that they are at the very core of the work of NFPs across Australia.
The NFP sector employs over 1 million Australians (around 8 per cent of the workforce) and provides volunteering opportunities to over 5 million people. It also turns over more than $100 billion annually which makes it a major purchaser of goods and services. When sector income increases, so do employment levels.
NFPs are also key players in supporting people in finding and maintaining work. Whether we are talking about people with disabilities, the social disadvantaged, or those with health issues including mental health, we know that getting people back to work is critical to achieving real success through NFP programs and services.
Work enables people to achieve independence, have a sense of meaning and value in their lives, as well as providing many workers with increased social connectedness and a sense of belonging.
Work is a gold star outcome for NFP programs and services in health, education, welfare, disability, and other areas.
Similarly, most NFP support programs seek to build stronger families. Our health care, sport and cultural activities, housing, education, and disability services often rely on families playing critical roles in enabling and consolidating support from cradle until grave.
Increasing family involvement and support is another desired outcome for many NFP programs and services.
Security is not just about more guns and training for police. Real security is about levels of trust, connectedness and cohesion in our communities, and nowhere is the role of NFPs more critical. Almost every community meeting and non-commercial interaction between people is supported by an NFP.
The local church or school parents club, an arts group or sporting club, the local emergency services or overseas aid fundraising team, all bring diverse people together in achieving shared goals. This is exactly what charities and NFPs specialise in during good times and bad.
The new national Government agenda of jobs, families and security, clearly relies on the NFP sector.
The Prime Minister has also talked about increasing consultation, listening more, recognising that sometimes his agenda has not been one the community supports.
If the Prime Minister is listening, he might hear a consistent message being repeatedly voiced by the thousands of charities and NFPs across Australia currently contemplating a less than clear future. If the sector had to reduce this message into one word, that word would be ‘certainty’.
It is disrespectful not to listen to the NFP sector, or to dismiss their views. What is even more damaging and destructive is the breaking of existing contracts, ending Government programs and concessions without notice, failing to provide a stable regulatory environment, and not making clear or transparent decisions about future funding. The current Government has engaged in all these activities, as have some previous Governments.
Just like business, charities and NFPs need a level of certainty if they are to invest in their own organisation, increase their staff numbers, and improve their programs and services. Undermining certainty in such a significant economic and social sector results in very real and significant flow on costs to government, and the community.
As CCA pointed out in its most recent Federal Budget Submission; increasing certainty for NFPs is not that hard. Governments might consider:
- backing the current charities regulator (the ACNC) to continue and expand its work until 2017 when it has to undergo an extensive review and report to Parliament;
- providing an agreed notice period of six months prior to the ending of any major government contract, incentive or concession;
- increasing the period of government contracts with NFPs wherever possible;
- introducing transparent and accessible processes for reviewing the performance of NFPs and the allocation of grant funding.
A Government that committed to these kinds of measures would not only be resetting its relationship with the NFP sector, it would be providing a real boost to jobs, families and security.
It will be interesting to see if the Government’s new three word messaging means more than the shallow political rhetoric it conveys.
About the Author: David Crosbie is the Chief Executive Officer of the Community Council for Australia (CCA), and a member of the Advisory Board to the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC).