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Calls to Support Charity Regulator as ACNC Commissioner Steps Aside

1 June 2017 at 2:54 pm
Wendy Williams
The inaugural commissioner of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Susan Pascoe AM will step aside when her term finishes in September amid renewed concerns over the future of the charity regulator.

Wendy Williams | 1 June 2017 at 2:54 pm


Calls to Support Charity Regulator as ACNC Commissioner Steps Aside
1 June 2017 at 2:54 pm

The inaugural commissioner of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Susan Pascoe AM will step aside when her term finishes in September amid renewed concerns over the future of the charity regulator.

ACNC Advisory Board chair, Tony Stuart confirmed on Thursday that Pascoe would finish her five-year contractual term on 30 September 2017.

Stuart, who is also the CEO of UNICEF Australia, said he welcomed the government’s commencement of an open, transparent, and consultative recruitment process.

“As the ACNC prepares for the five year legislative review in December this year, I encourage the government to appoint a new commissioner who will continue the important work of the ACNC,” Stuart said.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank Susan for her enormous contribution to the ACNC and Australia’s not-for-profit sector. The organisation will feel her loss and impact.

“Susan’s leadership, integrity and drive have seen the ACNC flourish in the face of this sustained uncertainty.”

He said under Pascoe’s leadership, the ACNC had “not only survived – but thrived.”

“Susan’s leadership was rightly recognised when she was awarded the top 2016 Leadership in Government Award for Outstanding Contribution in Public Administration in November 2016, highlighting her leadership and professionalism,” Stuart said.

“With Susan as the commissioner, and with the support of the ACNC Advisory Board, the organisation has achieved a great deal in such a short period of time.

“The ACNC Advisory Board and I wish Susan the very best for the future,” Stuart said.

However the Community Council of Australia has expressed concern about the process involved in “decisions around Susan Pascoe’s tenure and the future of the ACNC”.

In response to the news, CCA has prepared a draft open letter to the prime minister which it is now seeking signatures for.

The letter [below in full] expresses disappointment that the “fifth minister”, Assistant Minister Sukkar, who was appointed to oversee the ACNC, has never met with ACNC commissioners and “will not be renewing the contract of the ACNC Commissioner Susan Pascoe”.

It calls for Pascoe to be reappointed for at least another 12 months to enable the five-year review of the ACNC to be conducted with her at the helm.

It is anticipated that the new ACNC commissioner will be appointed by 1 October 2017.

For more information about the ACNC Advisory Board see here.

Those interested in signing the letter from CCA should email


Civil Society Support for Commissioner Susan Pascoe and the Independent Charities Regulator

Dear Prime Minister

We write to you concerned about the future of the Australian Charities and Not-for- Profits Commission (ACNC). We all want to see it continue and expand its impressive work.

We are therefore very disappointed that the fifth minister appointed by a Coalition government to oversee the work of the ACNC, who has never met with the ACNC Commissioners, and has now indicated he will not be renewing the contract of the ACNC Commissioner Susan Pascoe AM. This is despite positive support from the Treasury and the ACNC Advisory Board. By any measure, Commissioner Pascoe has done an impressive job in leading the ACNC. In November 2016 Commissioner Pascoe was the winner of the prestigious Outstanding Contribution in Public Administration Award – highlighting her world class leadership and professionalism.

Several of your Ministers, including the Treasurer Scott Morrison, have publicly acknowledged the importance of the ACNC and supported its continuing role. This has been a welcome and important reversal of previous policies and enabled your government to build a better relationship with the charities and not-for- profit sector. Unfortunately, it seems not all members of the government are supportive of the very important role played by the ACNC.

We believe Commissioner Pascoe should be reappointed, at least for another 12 months to enable the five-year review of the ACNC to be conducted without excluding her extensive knowledge and experience of how the organisation operates and performs.

Failing this reappointment, we would like you to ensure there is a transparent, fair and consultative process to appoint the best possible replacement. One of the critical criteria for this role is a deep understanding and experience across the charities and not-for- profit sector. Ideally the sector itself would be represented in the selection process. Given what has happened with Commissioner Pascoe, it is very difficult for the sector to have any confidence that the new appointment process will reflect the need for a strong, effective, independent charities regulator.

You have demonstrated in your actions and leadership as a philanthropist that you understand how charities and the broader not-for- profit sector are at the heart of Australian communities. Our organisations are there in the good times and bad. They provide support to the most vulnerable; lift our sights and our hearts through culture, sport, education, welfare, support for the aged or the unwell; promote our spirituality; protect our animals and our environment; play our part internationally, and ensure those less able can still participate. The not-for- profit sector also makes a major economic contribution, employing more than one million Australians and turning over in excess of $134 billion each year. Governments all know we need a strong not-for- profit sector in this country if we are to be both economically strong, and enjoy healthy fulfilling lives.

The establishment of an independent national charities regulator was first seriously proposed through a Howard Government review of the definition of charity in 2001, and has been supported by many, including the Productivity Commission, the Henry Review, and several Senate Inquiries involving hundreds of submissions and numerous public hearings.

Since its establishment under the leadership of Commissioner Pascoe, the ACNC has done outstanding work including: developing Australia’s first ever on-line up-to- date searchable database of registered charities; registering over 11,500 new charities; de-registering over 19,000 charities that were either no longer in existence or failing to meet appropriate standards; winning numerous awards for innovation and digitalization of data; producing informative research reports on the nature and extent of Australian charities and their activities; providing world leading education and support services to charities including fact sheets, guidelines, templates and information sessions across the country. The ACNC has also done what few new regulators achieve – improve public trust and confidence while gaining widespread support across the sector it is regulating.

Again, we urge you to revisit the decision not to re-appoint Commissioner Pascoe or, at the very least, put in place a process our sector can have confidence in for the selection of her replacement.

The vital work of the ACNC must be maintained, for the benefit of charities, not-for- profits and the many communities they serve.


Wendy Williams  |  Editor  |  @WendyAnWilliams

Wendy Williams is a journalist specialising in the not-for-profit sector and broader social economy. She has been the editor of Pro Bono News since 2018.

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  • Lisa Grinham says:

    Proud to support this initiative along with CCA. We support Susan Pascoe and the ACNC.

  • John Butcher says:

    It is very worrying that the Turnbull government would choose not to offer Susan Pascoe a further term as Commissioner and, thereby, enable her to consolidate the considerable gains made by the ACNC under her astute leadership. This is an alarming and unexpected development. Moreover, the timing is appalling. The ACNC and the sector need stability and certainty. While there seems to be little in Assistant Minister Sukkar’s background to suggest any antipathy to the ACNC, neither is there much evidence that he supports the mission of the ACNC. This decision is sending all the wrong signals to an organisation and a sector still traumatised by the relentless campaign against it waged by the Abbott government.

  • John Butcher says:

    In his Maiden Speech to the Parliament in November 2013, the current Assistant Minister to the Treasurer, Michael Sukkar, described himself as “an economic liberal’ whose ‘instincts are for open markets, free competition and small government”. He said “the greatest challenge the Liberal Party today is battling the ever-increasing size of government”, arguing that “more often than not, governments create more problems than they aspire to fix”. “Government intervention,” he suggested, “should be limited to what is vital”. There is a tendency amongst those who would call themselves ‘conservatives’ (as Sukkar also labels himself) to see regulation as a burdensome intrusion that stifles commerce and innovation. The ACNC does not fit this bill. Instead, it makes transparent and accountable the operations and transactions of charitable entities that are engaged in essentially public purposes and who benefit from public expenditures in the form of tax deductions. Thanks to the ACNC, transparency reigns. Let’s hope that Susan Pascoe’s successor continues her tradition of steadfast adherence to the ACNC’s mission without fear or favour.

  • Rev Paul Arnott says:

    The issue here for me is whether the decision by the government not to reappoint Susan Pascoe as ACNC Commissioner is an attempt to hamper and di is he its effectiveness as the national NFP regulator. Kevin Andrews told me face to face when he was the responsible minster that the Coalition was determined to get rid of the ACNC. That they had been opposed to it from the moment the Labor Party had created it. Is this decision yet another attempt to ameliorate the ACNC, and if so, what a bloody minded thing to attempt, when the vast majority of Australian charities strongly support its existence and affirm its effectiveness.

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