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Morrison 'Fudged' ACNC Announcement

10 September 2015 at 11:11 am
Ellie Cooper
The Minister for Social Services, Scott Morrison, had intended to officially announce, once and for all, that the Government would not be abolishing the national charity regulator, but could not get approval from the Cabinet, sources have said.

Ellie Cooper | 10 September 2015 at 11:11 am


Morrison 'Fudged' ACNC Announcement
10 September 2015 at 11:11 am

The Minister for Social Services, Scott Morrison, had intended to officially announce, once and for all, that the Government would not be abolishing the national charity regulator, but could not get approval from the Cabinet, sources have said.

Yesterday the Minister told a meeting of philanthropy and charity stakeholders that the Government would work with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC), conceding that the Senate would block any plans to abolish it.

But Morrison qualified his comments, saying that he would look at shifting the ACNC’s focus away from being a regulator and towards being a “champion of the sector”.

When asked specifically by Pro Bono Australia News if he no longer intended to abolish the ACNC, Morrison said: “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.”

While many in the sector, and the regulator itself, welcomed the announcement as a stark about-face of the Abbott Government’s previously staunch opposition to the ACNC, there were questions as to why Morrison stopped short of putting an end to the saga.

CEO of the Origin Foundation, Sean Barrett, told those attending the Philanthropy Meets Parliament summit that he believed Morrison did not have time to clear a more concrete commitment to the future of the ACNC with the Cabinet and that he had instead “fudged” the announcement.

Sources told Pro Bono Australia News that as late as Wednesday morning Morrison had intended to announce that the Government would withdraw its Bill to abolish the ACNC.

CEO of Community Council for Australia, David Crosbie, said that the invitation of ACNC Commissioner, Susan Pascoe, had led many to believe that the Morrison would commit to saving the regulator.

“I would have hoped that the Government would formally announce that it is withdrawing that legislation to abolish the ACNC, and I think that’s the next step,” Crosbie said.

“Everything we know about what the Government’s done, it’s provided additional funding to the ACNC, it’s talked about wanting to work with the ACNC, the Minister was very clear that he sees it as a positive initiative and that they want to build on that, they’ve done everything except withdraw the legislation and every kind of indicator that you could ask for has been put in place but we still have, in the Lower House, some legislation calling for it to be abolished.

“I think the presence of the Commissioner, Susan Pascoe, the interest in the ACNC, the fact that Susan was welcomed and the Minister talked a lot about wanting to work with the sector and wanting to work with Susan as Commissioner, I really thought it was… almost an announcement and then it seemed to not be an announcement at the very end.

“I’m disappointed. It seemed to me that it was a mixed message. I have to say I personally, as soon as I had a chance, asked the Minister’s advisor what it actually meant and to be honest we’re still not exactly clear on when the legislation may be withdrawn.”

Crosbie said he thought it was only a matter of time before the Government withdrew its legislation to abolish the ACNC.

“I think there’s clearly tension within the Government about the degree to which they’re prepared to withdraw the current legislation in the Lower House calling for the abolition of the ACN,” he said.

“I think that most people can see that the ACNC is a very worthwhile initiative, it’s doing good work it has the support of not only the sector but the Senate, it’s an idea whose time has long come, it’s been asked for for over 20 years and it’s shown in practice it makes a positive difference for the sector.

“There’s very little opposition left and I think it’s now up to the Government to actually withdraw the legislation that’s before the lower house to abolish it.

“I think it’s a matter of time and I suppose work within the Cabinet to ensure that the Government does finally agree that the abolition of the ACNC is simply not a good idea.”

Ellie Cooper  |  Journalist  |  @ProBonoNews

Ellie Cooper is a journalist covering the social sector.

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