NFPs Undecided as Politicians Get Put into the Hotseat
14 June 2016 at 11:03 am
A third of Australia’s Not for Profit sector is still sceptical about which parties would work best for it’s future, a survey has revealed, as the politicians representing the major parties get ready to debate the issues at a special National Press Club forum in Canberra on Tuesday.
With three weeks remaining in the campaign, peak body, the Community Council for Australia (CCA) has organised the national debate on the sector’s future to urge the parties to place their key issues onto the national policy agenda.
In the lead up to the event, CCA carried out a survey of its members on the policies of the parties and the top issues facing the sector.
“The charities and Not for Profit sector feels very strongly about the need to strengthen the sector, protect the right of charities to advocate, and achieve greater certainty across the sector,” CCA CEO David Crosbie said.
The survey, which offered a snapshot of opinions from more than 20 significant charities in Australia, found that 95 per cent of respondents “strongly agreed” that the major political parties should have policies that are specifically developed to support a stronger charities and NFP sector, including protecting the right of charities and NFPs to advocate on behalf of the communities they serve.
Reducing compliance costs was another major issue with 80 per cent of respondents strongly agreeing that reducing red tape and duplication should be a priority for the government.
All of the respondents strongly agreed that the problems with short term contracts, uncertainty, and the ceasing of government funding at short notice must be part of the policy agenda of major parties.
The majority of respondents in this survey also strongly supported the need for:
- a minister accepting responsibility for the relationship between government and the NFP sector,
- policies to support an increase in philanthropy, workplace giving and volunteerism,
- better linking DGR status to charitable status,
- supporting the development of a national plan for the sector.
When it came to deciding which political party would best deliver these priorities for the sector there was a spread of opinion, with the Greens and the ALP more generally favoured over the Coalition.
However many respondents indicated they were still unsure which party would be best for the sector.
Over 100 personalised letters were also emailed to the major candidates in 30 marginal electorates, with each major political party providing a response.
All major parties indicated strong support for the sector and were seeking to work with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) to reduce red tape, duplication and compliance costs.
While the mechanisms for future planning and engagement varied, all major parties claimed to want to actively engage with the sector and work constructively together.
The Coalition stated it was “an objective of the Turnbull government to create an environment that allows the charitable and NFP sector to thrive”, and they want to work co-operatively with CCA and the sector to achieve this.
The Coalition sees the Community Business Partnership as promoting and supporting policies to increase future certainty through promoting philanthropy, workplace giving, impact investment, volunteering and addressing regulatory issues. It also wants to promote more consultation and planning for the future of the sector.
The ALP said,“Labour supports a strong and sustainable charities sector” and will ensure all government ministers regularly engage with the charities and NFP sector.
It has already established consultative mechanisms including the Community Sector Partnership and will re-energise a National Compact. The ALP wants to establish a more partnership-based approach to the development, implementation and monitoring of policy impacting on the NFP sector, including better data sharing, ensuring staff terms and conditions are not diminished, and promoting volunteering.
The Greens provided the most specific listing of responses including agreeing to draw on the recommendations for the Productivity Commission for measures that would strengthen the sector and “committing additional funding in our initiatives specifically to enable community organisations to deliver the key services that communities across Australia rely on.”
The Greens are concerned about issues like uncertainty and advocacy, and the impact across the sector. In their proposed public reporting of their own performance, the Greens see working with the NFP sector as an essential component of policy making and implementation.
CCA also received a number of individual candidate responses including a letter from the Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce, an offer to further work with local charities from an ALP candidate and a listing of concerns for local charities from a Greens candidate.
The survey results will inform the debate in Canberra, which will bring together Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh, Greens Senator Rachel Siewert and Liberals Senator Zed Seselja.
CCA chair and World Vision chief advocate Tim Costello will host the debate.
Crosbie said CCA believed that it was a very important debate for “our sector, for our communities and for this election”.
“Facilitating this discussion has not been easy, despite writing personal letters to over 100 candidates. ,” Crosbie said.
“The positions taken in this debate will play a role in shaping the Not for Profit policy agenda of the major political parties. CCA is hoping there will be some common ground around priorities and the need for increased certainty across the sector.
“It is interesting to note that almost every election candidate appears keen to highlight their connections to local charities and Not for Profits as part of their public profile.
“Clearly most politicians recognise that the community of voters they are appealing to values the sector, and that being associated with the sector is a positive factor contributing to their election.
“Unfortunately, only a few candidates appear to have thought about how they or their party could better support the productivity and effectiveness of the sector.
“This National Press Club debate will enable each major party to not just talk about how valuable the sector is, but to lay out its policy agenda and explain how it will work to better support the sector.”
The Not for Profit forum will be broadcast live on ABC24 at 12.30 AEST.