ACNC Moves to Withhold Charity Information
Wednesday, 29th March 2017 at 3:52 pm
Two more charities have been granted permission by the charity regulator to keep their board members’ names off the national register on the grounds of “public safety”.
The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission has removed the names of the boards of two Christian charities, the Lachlan Macquarie Institute and the Australian Christian Lobby (ACL), from the public record following an application which claimed publication “could endanger public safety”.
The Australian newspaper reported the application came after abuse and threats from gay activists which forced an IBM executive to sever his links with a Christian education group.
“The Lachlan Macquarie Institute and the ACL applied to the commission last week after militant gay rights activists targeted marriage equality advocate IBM Australia for employing Mark Allaby, who was on the institute’s board,” the newspaper said.
“Both organisations removed the details of their boards and staff from their websites last week, as gay activists increased pressure on IBM and started to circulate the names and jobs of the Christian board members.”
The managing director of the Australian Christian Lobby Lyle Shelton said on the organisation’s website: “I was notified that the Australian Charities and Not for Profits Commission had agreed to remove the names of board members for Australian Christian Lobby and the Lachlan Macquarie Internship.
“The ACNC has taken this unusual step because they recognise that our board [members] have become the targets of a merciless campaign to silence other views on marriage.
“If this is what things are like now, imagine what Australia will be like if same-sex marriage were ever introduced.”
The Lachlan Macquarie Institute has removed the names and details of board members from its website citing “security reasons”.
Registered charities are able to apply to have information withheld from the charity register under division 40 of the ACNC Act.
An ACNC spokesperson said the ACNC commissioner would exercise her discretion to withhold information on the charity register.
The criteria for withholding information is approved if it:
- is commercially sensitive and publication could cause harm to the charity or a person
- is inaccurate or misleading
- is likely to offend
- could endanger public safety
- is covered by ACNC regulations.
“Under the act, the commissioner has a discretion in deciding whether to withhold information from the charity register or not, in that she can publish information if she considers the public interest outweighs the likely adverse effect of publishing. Therefore she may decide not to withhold information even if it meets one or more of the criteria listed above,” the spokesperson said.
“If a registered charity applies for a withhold request, the ACNC will immediately remove information from the charity register while we process the application.
“We will often remove the entire charity register listing in the first instance. We do this to ensure that any risks, for example public safety or commercial sensitivity, are minimised while we consider the request.”
In 2015-16, 1,028 registered charities applied to withhold information from the charity register, down from 1,996 the year prior.
The spokesperson said about half the charities that apply to withhold information are approved.
More information about withholding information from the charity register is available at acnc.gov.au/withhold.