Senate Approves Inquiry into Charity Fundraising
Wednesday, 20th June 2018 at 5:21 pm
The Australian Senate has agreed to establish a select committee to undertake an inquiry into charity fundraising in the 21st century.
The proposal, which was brought before the senate on Tuesday by Labor Senator Catryna Bilyk, was first put forward by Senator Anthony Chisholm in May.
It aims to establish a Select Committee on Charity Fundraising in the 21st Century to report on the current framework of charity fundraising regulation and options for reform.
The move has been warmly welcomed by the charity sector, which has long campaigned to improve the state of fundraising regulation in Australia.
Sue Woodward, director of national projects at Justice Connect, which has been working in collaboration with some of Australia’s leading professional and peak bodies as part of the #fixfundraising campaign, told Pro Bono News they were excited by the news.
“The hope is that they shine a light on this issue,” Woodward said.
“It hasn’t been one that’s been seen as a priority and I think a Senate Select Committee helps us elevate it to the level that it deserves.”
Included in the terms of reference, the committee will explore how federal, state and territory governments could “work together to provide charities with a nationally-consistent, contemporary and fit-for-purpose fundraising regime”.
It will also consider whether the current framework of fundraising regulation creates “unnecessary problems for charities and organisations” who rely on donations and how Australian consumer law should apply to not-for-profit fundraising activities.
And of interest given the sector’s recent concern over the suite of foreign interference legislation being proposed by the federal government, the committee will explore whether a “harmonised, contemporary fundraising regime could help in addressing concerns about the potential influence of foreign money on civil society and political debate in Australia”.
Woodward said the terms of reference provided a good framework for exploring the main issues.
She said they looked forward to working “through the details” with both state and federal governments around the table.
“I think there is widespread acceptance that the current law is out-of-date and ineffective, but we need that state/federal cooperation to come up with a solution that provides us with fit-for-purpose nationally consistent fundraising laws,” she said.
Fundraising Institute Australia CEO Rob Edwards said while Senator Chisholm may not be well-known outside his home state of Queensland, that was set to change as far as the sector was concerned.
“From the terms of reference he has proposed it is clear that he really understands the issues facing fundraisers,” Edwards said.
“The whole tone, manner and content of Senator Chisholm’s proposal is different from the federal interventions of the past year which have resulted in more, not less, red tape.
“It is heartening to know there are voices in Canberra with a deep and sympathetic understanding of our issues.”
Krystian Seibert, an industry fellow at the Centre for Social Impact at Swinburne University of Technology, told Pro Bono News it was great to see the Senate agree to this inquiry.
“Just about everybody agrees that the current approach to fundraising regulation is broken, and charities have been calling for it to be fixed for many years now,” Seibert said.
“We need a system that provides appropriate protections for donors, but without saddling charities with unnecessarily complicated, inconsistent and outdated compliance requirements.
“A Senate inquiry provides an open and transparent way to examine reform options, and hopefully it will be the catalyst for real and tangible action on the issue.”
The committee is due to present its final report on 18 October, the first sitting Thursday in October.