Fix Fundraising Frustrated by Senate Report
18 February 2019 at 5:13 pm
The coalition of peak bodies campaigning to fix state fundraising laws have welcomed the release of a Senate committee report into fundraising, but says it feels frustrated and concerned over a lack of decisive action on the issue.
The committee unanimously recommended the government provide a response to the six-month-old Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission review report, and work with states, territories and the NFP sector to develop a national model within two years.
The state-based regulations have been widely criticised as they were written pre-internet, and there are a different set of rules for every state, making it difficult for the charitable sector to comply with fundraising laws between states.
Wendy Scaife, director of the Australian Centre for Philanthropy Nonprofit Studies, said while she was pleased the committee had a clear understanding that current fundraising laws were holding the sector back, there was a sense of “deja-vu” from the findings.
“Whilst I think the senators grasped the issues well, I think that the need for action is paramount,” Scaife told Pro Bono News.
“These issues have been swirling around for decades, and nothing seems to be resolved.”
The report, released on Friday, was handed down just weeks after the final Senate Committee hearing in January, where evidence was heard from prominent sector leaders.
Sue Woodward, director of Justice Connect’s Not-for-profit Law service, told Pro Bono News while the report was sound, it was unfortunate the Senate didn’t feel it could give a clear solution to the problem.
She also noted there was no reason why two years were required for the states and territories to develop a national model.
“The coalition will not be waiting two years for this to happen. We don’t need any more research or reports. What we do need is action by the relevant officials and ministers to work out the implementation process rather than debating that there is a problem,” Woodward said.
David Crosbie, CEO of the Community Council of Australia, echoed this sentiment, telling Pro Bono News the report failed to describe a way forward, and didn’t back any of the options for reform that were put forward.
Crosbie also said the confidence placed in the states and territories to work together to an agreed solution, was misplaced.
“In well over a decade of attempts to arrive at workable regulations in this area, the states and territories have consistently shown themselves to be incapable of achieving a consistent response,” Crosbie said.
Federal shadow minister for charities and not-for-profits, Andrew Leigh, and chair of the senate committee into fundraising, Catryna Bilyk, released a joint statement in response to the report on Friday, saying they had set a timer on achieving reform for charities.
“For too long, Australia’s charity sector have been banging their heads against the wall of our outdated and complex fundraising laws,” Leigh and Bilyk said.
“The case for change has been made again and again, but now the Labor-chaired Select committee has set the clock ticking on achieving reform.
“Labor has committed to fix fundraising for Australian charities, and for the donors that support them. The problem is clear. The solutions are clear. Now it’s time to get this done.”
Crosbie said the follow-up from the Labor party, to address the findings of the report within the next two years would push the states and territories into action.
“I hope this will put the states and territories on notice and will achieve the desired outcome,” he said.
Scaife said collaboration and conversation between all stakeholders was key to fixing the problem.
“I think it will take a conversation from all of the stakeholders from both sides of the political divide and the sector to sit around a table and work out what the pathway forward is,” she said.
Woodward said the coalition would continue talks with both sides of government to elevate the issue, and encouraged all charities to raise the matter with their local politician.
“It does need every state, territory and the Commonwealth to work together, so if every charity speaks to their local member, it will help elevate it, and stop it getting pushed down year after year.”