Australia’s Charity Regulator Saved
4 March 2016 at 10:32 am
The Federal Government has decided to keep the national charity regulator, the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, after almost two years of speculation.
Minister for Social Services, Christian Porter, and Minister for Small Business and Assistant Treasurer, Kelly O’Dwyer, said the decision followed extensive consultation with the sector on the alternative option of repealing and replacing the ACNC.
“We have given this very careful consideration,” Minister Porter said.
“The government’s consulted with, and listened to, all interested stakeholders. While there are a variety of views, within the charitable sector there is sufficient support for the retention of the ACNC.
“It is intended that the ACNC will have a renewed focus on working with charities to help them to become more effective, and helping them to improve their governance.”
Minister O’Dwyer said eliminating uncertainty about the ACNC would allow it to further progress regulatory reform and improve the Not for Profit sector.
“Today’s announcement sees us striking the right balance between having effective public accountability and cutting red tape,” Minister O’Dwyer said.
“The government will now work with the ACNC to remove duplication and increase accountability and transparency.
“The government will continue to work with the ACNC, states and territories and the sector to identify areas where we can reduce the burden of red tape for charities and Not for Profit organisations.”
A spokesman for Porter told Pro Bono Australia News that the timing of the removal of the ACNC repeal legislation from parliament was a decision for the Prime Minister and not an automatic process. Parliament is due to sit again from 15 to 17 March.
However, the spokesperson confirmed that the original legislation set up by the former Labor government, setting up the role and duties of the ACNC, would remain in place and unchanged.
The announcement received wide support from the social sector.
World Vision Australia CEO and Chair of the Community Council for Australia (CCA), Tim Costello, welcomed the news.
“This is a very pleasing announcement. The lack of certainty about the future of the ACNC has been a major issue within the sector and across governments,” Costello said.
“The ACNC and the charities sector will now be able to better plan for their future and devote more time and energy to doing what they do well, serving our communities.”
Australian Council of Social Service CEO, DR Cassandra Goldie said “community sector organisations have been asking for this announcement now for several years”.
“It is encouraging that the Turnbull government is listening and have reacted to what the sector has been saying. This decision will benefit all Australian communities through a better regulated and supported charities sector,” Dr Goldie said.
CEO of Philanthropy Australia, Sarah Davies, commended the decision.
“A well-regulated charities sector is important for funders as well as the wider community, and the ACNC has been working hard to deliver on that objective,” Davies said.
“We also need better data about philanthropy as well as charities more broadly, and the ACNC is the way we’re going to get that so it’s great that it’s here to stay.”
CEO of CCA David Crosbie said “this announcement is about the voice of the charities sector growing louder in recent years, and the government is starting to listen”.
“Ministers Porter, Morrison and O’Dwyer are to be commended for responding to sector concerns and supporting this change in government policy,” Crosbie said.
“The ACNC can now get on with better serving the charities sector and the community through its invaluable work; registering and maintaining a national listing of Australian charities, cutting red tape, investigating rogue charities, and ensuring charities can fulfill their purpose.”
CEO of the Australian Council for International Development, the peak body for Australia’s international aid agencies, Marc Purcell, also welcomed the announcement.
“We welcome the Government’s announcement. It is in the public interest to have a national regulator oversighting the integrity of charities. Secondly it is in the interests of charities to have a dedicated authority supporting the effectiveness of their work to benefit communities,” Purcell said.
Former prime minister Tony Abbott had pledged to abolish the ACNC when he came into office however the government then made a series of contradictory statements on the future of the ACNC, leaving the sector guessing on whether or not it had a future.
Former social services minister and current Treasurer, Scott Morrison, said that abolishing the ACNC was no longer a priority but in September he muddied the water by saying that commission should act as a “champion of the sector”, rather than as a regulator.
The ACNC has been approached for comment.