Government Not Abolishing ACNC
9 September 2015 at 12:48 pm
The Abbott Government has made the clearest indication to date that it has abandoned plans to abolish the national charity regulator.
Minister for Social Services Scott Morrison said on Wednesday morning he wanted to work with the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC), while acknowledging that there was wide support for it within the sector.
Speaking in front of an audience of charity stakeholders at the Philanthropy Meets Parliament summit in Canberra, Morrison said that the Government supported the work of the ACNC.
“I have been consulted over the issue of the ACNC and there is strong sector support for the ACNC to continue and I would say that view is shared particularly in the Parliament,” Morrison said.
“We remain very committed to reducing red tape and regulation therefore we will work with the Treasurer and the Commission, the States and Territories and the sector to identify areas where we can reduce administrative burden for charities and Not for Profit organisations so they can focus on outcomes that go to support the most vulnerable in our society.”
But Morrison said he did not want the ACNC to continue to be a regulatory body.
“We will continue to look at that issue closely in the weeks ahead and what I will intend to focus on in the short term is that we get the focus of the ACNC where I believe it wants it and of course the Government wants it, and that its rather than regulation the ACNC should be about championing charities, working with them to become more effective and improve their governance arrangements,” he said.
“We don’t want another bureaucracy any more than the ACNC does and we don’t want more red tape for our volunteering and our Not for Profit sector.
“We need to strike the right balance between public accountability and cutting red tape maintaining public confidence through transparency and consistency of reporting and having a proportionate compliance framework across state and territory charity legislation.”
Morrison later told Pro Bono Australia News that he was aware of the sector’s support for the ACNC.
“All I’ve said today about the ACNC is I’ve consulted widely and there is very strong support for the ACNC and I don’t believe there would be support in the Senate for there to be any change,” he said.
ACNC Commissioner Susan Pascoe told Pro Bono Australia News immediately after Morrison’s announcement that she was encouraged by what he had said.
“We are very encouraged that the Minister has made positive statements about the ACNC,” Pascoe said.
“I think we’re particularly encouraged that he’s taken the focus on red tape reduction, because one of the challenges we’ve had is that there’s been a reticence amongst some of the agencies in fully aligning with the ACNC because they don’t want to commit resources when they don’t know what the future is.
“If the Minister is committed to working with us and with other agencies toward red tape reduction what I suspect he’s talking about is a collaborative exercise and I think everybody would welcome that. Once we hear a little bit more about what the intent is I think that could be extremely positive.
“What I can take from today’s message is that the Government wants to work with the ACNC and shares the commitment that the States and Territories have to reducing red tape for charities. I think that it’s a great platform moving forward.”
Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh, said that the government needed to make a clear cut announcement on the ACNC.
“We can’t move forward with this until the current government commits to keeping the charities commission open,” Leigh said.
“Scott Morrison’s comments this morning suggest that the government has all-but ended its election commitment to scrap the charities commission.
“I hope he formalises that by withdrawing the charities commission abolition Bill from the Parliament.”
Greens Senator Rachel Siewert welcomed Morrison's announcement and added her voice to the chorus of people calling for the government to officially repeal the ACNC abolition Bill.
“Plans to scrap the ACNC were opposed by the community sector and were not supported by the Senate, so Scott Morrison has made the right decision in backing away from the measure," Siewert said.
“The Minister should now withdraw the ACNC repeal bill so that there isn’t a shadow hanging over the ACNC.
“It would have been irresponsible to the sector and the community to repeal a popular and effective regulator without any viable alternative proposed."
The Abbott Government went into the 2013 Federal Election promising to remove the ACNC, claiming that it was creating a red tape burden for charities and Not for Profits.
In March 2014 then Social Services Minister, Kevin Andrews, introduced two Bills to repeal the ACNC.
The Government faced strong opposition in the Senate however, with Labor Senator Penny Wong, Greens Senator Rachel Siewert, Independent Senator Nick Xenophon and Motoring Enthusiast Party Senator Ricky Muir moving a joint motion in June this year saying that the plans to abolish the ACNC) are creating uncertainty in the charity sector.
Senator Wong pointed to Pro Bono Australia’s State of the Sector Survey in which more than 80 per cent of respondents agreed that the ACNC was “critical to a well-functioning Not for Profit sector”.