What Will a Morrison Government Mean for the Charity Sector?
24 August 2018 at 5:27 pm
Charities will have to hit the reset button on government relations under new Prime Minister Scott Morrison, sector advocates say, as the fallout from the Liberal Party’s leadership crisis leaves the charity sector facing its sixth minister in five years.
Morrison was elected Liberal leader on Friday after defeating Peter Dutton 45-40 in a leadership ballot, making him Australia’s 30th prime minister.
The leadership chaos that gripped Parliament this week led to the resignation of many government ministers including Michael Sukkar – the minister responsible for the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission.
Even though Morrison unveiled his cabinet on Sunday, a responsible minister for the ACNC has not yet been announced.
Community Council for Australia CEO David Crosbie said while the charity sector looked forward to working with the new prime minister, the disruption to government had been problematic for many larger charities.
“I know of charities that had key events, policies, funding and policy changes lined up with ministers – some of which represented years of work building understanding and relationships,” Crosbie told Pro Bono News.
“Having to hit the reset button on government relations is not something you would choose to do. Like business, charities need stability and certainty to make investments in their organisation, their staff, their infrastructure and capacity.
“This has been a very disappointing series of events and has undoubtedly cost momentum for many charities.”
Labor MP Andrew Leigh, the shadow minister for charities and not for profits, told Pro Bono News Sukkar’s resignation left the charity sector facing its sixth minister in five years.
Charities are collateral damage of #LibSpill. Libs now onto their 6th charities minister: Kevin Andrews, Scott Morrison, Christian Porter, Michael McCormack, Michael Sukkar & ?
Throughout, I’ve had charity responsibility for Labor. We’re stable, consistent & ready to govern.
— Andrew Leigh (@ALeighMP) August 23, 2018
“I really worry for the charity sector now,” Leigh said.
“The sector faces its sixth minister in five years. It is simply becoming collateral damage in the Liberal Party’s ideological wars.
“And one of the things I’ve found over the last five years as shadow minister for charities is the value of relationships… and of steady learnings about the challenges and opportunities in the sector. You can’t gain that overnight.”
In 2013 the Liberal Party, then led by conservative Tony Abbott, went into the federal election promising to abolish the ACNC, claiming it created a red tape burden for charities and NFPs.
While these plans were eventually abandoned, Leigh warned that the Liberal’s return to a conservative leader like Morrison again put the ACNC’s future at risk.
“We know there are forces on the conservative side of politics that would like to get rid of the ACNC, who want to stop charities from advocating, and want to wrap charities in further regulation making it harder for them to build a strong Australian community,” Leigh said.
“The charity sector needs stability.”
Greens Senator Rachel Siewert also called for greater government stability to protect the charity sector.
“I am deeply concerned about what the current instability will mean for the charity and not-for profit sector,” Siewert told Pro Bono News.
“This government has been intent on nobbling the sector and wanted in the past to get rid of the ACNC. I’m concerned about what the Coalition’s approach will be following with their shift even further to the right.”
The Australian Council for Social Service (ACOSS) said it hoped Morrison’s elevation to prime minister would bring an end to political instability, while also urging Morrison to work constructively with the sector.
The Morrison Government must reach out to people in the community, to listen carefully, working with civil society. It must act for the many, not for the view, bringing us together, not driving us apart.
— ACOSS (@ACOSS) August 24, 2018
“ACOSS urges the new government to reach out to people in the community, to listen carefully, and to act responsibly, ethically, and in consultation and tandem with civil society,” it said in a statement.
“The voices of people and communities disadvantaged by poverty and inequality in Australia must be included in the dialogue, not only over social security and community services but crucially also economic policy, tax reform, energy transition and housing.”
The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) was less optimistic about the prospect of a Morrison government.
The @ASRC1 will need your support more than ever before under a #Morrison Government. This is a PM who when Immigration Minister tried to deport Syrian refugees back to Syria, defunded legal help to 28,000 & accused by the UN of subjecting refugees to torture & condemned by UNCAT
— Kon Karapanagiotidis (@Kon__K) August 24, 2018
The charity said in a statement that as immigration minister, Scott Morrison was responsible for introducing temporary visas for refugees and passing a law that kept families separated.
CEO Kon Karapinagiotidis said: “No one knows better than the ASRC and I what a Morrison government will mean for our country. Over the last [few] years we have seen first-hand on a daily basis the catastrophic cost to people and community.
“We have seen families separated, children left to deteriorate till they get critically ill on Nauru, men driven to take their lives on Manus, newly-arrived Sudanese refugees being demonised, deaths in offshore centres, turning back refugees to danger at sea [and] thousands left for years under an unjust legal process.
“Today is a dark day for human rights and we will use our independence to hold this government to account and protect and uphold the human rights of refugees.”