Political Parties Need to Forge New Relationship with Charity Sector – Forum
Tuesday, 14th June 2016 at 3:55 pm
There is a need for a more respectful relationship with the Australian charity and Not for Profit sector, a political forum in Canberra has been told.
The Community Council for Australia forum on the future of the Not for Profit sector, held at the National Press Club on Tuesday, saw Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh, Greens Senator Rachel Siewert and ACT Liberal Senator Zed Seselja debate their election policies affecting the sector.
“Preparedness to listen to the sector is something we have had trouble with over the past three years and I think it’s great that they are listening,” CCA CEO David Crosbie told Pro Bono Australia News.
“All three were very keen to actively engage with the sector.
“The levels of trust of the community sector remain incredibly high and the lesson there is that charities have maintained their standing while political parties have seemed to diminish.”
Leigh told the forum that there was a need for a more respectful relationship than had been characterised in the last few years with the Not for Profit sector.
“I have been worried that charities spend too much of their time fighting the government than fighting for the most vulnerable. The battle over the national charities commission only ended this year when the government finally decided not to scrap [the ACNC],” Leigh said.
He said Labor would invigorate the national compact and relationship with the sector.
“We want to encourage the charity commission to move to the next stage from the paperwork heavy regulations,” Leigh said.
“We need a respectful relationship. We need longer term contracts to enable organisations to do their planning and not be in a constant cycle of applying and reapplying, and we need a government that is really proud of charities regardless of whether they are supporting them politically or not.”
Senator Seselja said the government always needed to find better ways of working with the charity sector.
“We don’t always do it perfectly but I think today was very constructive,” he told Pro Bono Australia News.
“Certainly respect is a critical part of our community … I want to see them [charities] continue to thrive and for the government to continue to find ways to help them and not necessarily in a domineering way.
“Now we need to continue to make the charity commission the most effective organisation it can be. I know there is this reform agenda around red tape and that’s certainly what we are supportive of, so I think that’s going to be an obvious area of collaboration between the next government and the ACNC.”
Senator Siewert said there was room for a more respectful relationship with the Not for Profit sector.
“I think the politicians are well out of tune with what the community is saying from the door knocking the Greens have been doing,” she said.
Chair of CCA Tim Costello described the forum as a mature discussion, acknowledging that the sector is profoundly important for the development of Australia.
“In this election period not to have three parties positioning and point scoring is quite striking. All three spoke of a greater respect they each need to have for the sector,” he said.
Ahead of the debate, the CCA carried out a survey of its members regarding the policies of each of the parties and the top issues facing the sector.
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.
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.