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Senate Hearing Finds Fundraising Laws Are Broken… But Can Be Fixed


1 February 2019 at 5:07 pm
Maggie Coggan
Key players in the campaign to fix state fundraising laws believe they have reached a tipping point in a two-decade-long battle, following the final hearing of the senate inquiry into charitable fundraising.


Maggie Coggan | 1 February 2019 at 5:07 pm


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Senate Hearing Finds Fundraising Laws Are Broken… But Can Be Fixed
1 February 2019 at 5:07 pm

Key players in the campaign to fix state fundraising laws believe they have reached a tipping point in a two-decade-long battle, following the final hearing of the senate inquiry into charitable fundraising.  

The inquiry, first brought forward by Labor in May 2018, heard evidence from a range of notable sector leaders including barrister Norman O’Bryan AM and Emeritus Professor Myles McGregor-Lowndes from The Australian Centre for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Studies.

O’Bryan told the hearing: “There is no political, economic or commercial downside to updating fundraising regulation. All upsides include public benefit, savings in time and money for charities to put into their missions.”

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 interstate fundraising laws.

McGregor-Lowndes told Pro Bono News he felt a positive result was on the horizon as the committee was engaged, and had a good understanding of the key issues they had repeatedly raised.          

“They’ve thrown themselves into this inquiry and are taking it seriously. I am really quite encouraged and looking forward to the final report they’ll bring after the hearing,” McGregor-Lowndes said.

He said while it had taken many reports over a number of years, with the upcoming federal election, the time was right to address the problem.

“It’s the perfect time for all parties to address this in their election commitments to the general public,” he said.

Labor Senator Catryna Bilyk, chair of the senate committee, said it was absurd the current laws were locked in the pre-internet age.

“The sector is battling a chaotic patchwork of state and territory fundraising laws that barely recognise the existence of mobile phones or the internet,” Bilyk said.

“Charities who raise money online are placed in the invidious position of either spending a week doing the paperwork to register in every state and territory, or just registering locally, and hoping they don’t get caught.”

She said Labor had made the commitment to develop a consistent national approach to fundraising so modern charities could carry out their work better.

“We know it’s time to get this done. With today’s final hearing, the message is crystal clear – the 21st century is here, it’s time for 21st century fundraising laws,” she said.  

“Labor thanks the charities and experts that have participated in this important inquiry. It’s clear the system is broken, it’s clear it needs to be fixed and it’s clear that it can be.”

McGregor-Lowndes said he was hopeful the final report would be handed down during the first sitting of Parliament, and encouraged the sector to pay attention to the report when it was delivered.

“It should read and digest the report and make its feelings known and be very clear in its expectations,” he said.

“The nonprofit sector is a sector which needs attention and should be given the importance that it’s due.”


Maggie Coggan  |  Journalist  |  @MaggieCoggan

Maggie Coggan is a journalist at Pro Bono News covering the social sector.

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