Charity leaders slam continued inaction on fundraising reform
30 August 2019 at 5:14 pm
The charity sector’s hopes of achieving urgent fundraising reform have been dealt a major blow, after the issue was left off the agenda for an influential meeting between consumer affairs ministers.
Charity leaders say they are disappointed, but not surprised, that charitable fundraising was not discussed during the annual Consumer Affairs Forum meeting in New Zealand on Friday.
Advocates had been calling on state and territory consumer ministers to make fundraising reform a high priority during the meeting, to begin the process of stripping back “outdated” fundraising laws that vary from region to region and were written pre-internet.
Community Council for Australia CEO David Crosbie told Pro Bono News it was clear the concerns of the charity sector around red tape were of little importance to many of the consumer affairs ministers.
He said this continued the trend of ministers “burying their heads in the sand” on the issue.
“Apparently it is okay to impose a dog’s breakfast of dated dysfunctional regulations on charities, ignore the national congestion busting agenda, and ensure millions of dollars and countless hours of time continue to be wasted by charities jumping through inconsequential administrative hoops that have long outlived their usefulness,” Crosbie said.
“The actions of these ministers will perpetuate their irrelevance and ensure most charities do not comply with the current ineffectual and unenforceable fundraising regulations.”
A recent bipartisan Senate report recommended Parliament reform Australia’s fundraising laws within the next two years.
Fundraising reform advocates want a nationally-consistent, fit-for-purpose charitable fundraising regime created by repealing existing state and ACT laws, and amending Australian Consumer Law so it applies to fundraising activities.
Sue Woodward, who has led the campaign for reform as head of Not-for-profit Law at Justice Connect, said it was disappointing fundraising reform was left off the agenda.
She had hoped ministers would agree that Australia Consumer Law could be improved to cover charitable fundraising – therefore allowing inconsistent state-based laws to be removed.
She said it might be time for the federal government to take action using its telecommunications and other related powers, as many people were now making their donations online.
“Waiting for states, territories and federal governments to work together on this issue is getting us nowhere,” Woodward told Pro Bono News.
“This inaction and red tape would not be tolerated by the business sector, and precious money and time is being diverted from helping people and their communities.”
Not unexpected but geez it is a shame for all those small charities out there struggling with red tape! #fixfundraising not even mentioned in the Consumer Affairs forum communique https://t.co/dOmLU3yMey
— Not-for-profit Law (@nfp_law) August 30, 2019
While the federal government was represented at the meeting by Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar, whose portfolio covers Australia Consumer Law, the issue of charitable fundraising is the responsibility of Assistant Minister for Charities Zed Seselja.
Labor’s charities spokesperson Andrew Leigh said Seselja had “failed” his first test as charities minister.
“Outdated fundraising laws cost charities over $1 million a month, yet Senator Seselja can’t even get fundraising reform on the agenda for consumer affairs ministers to discuss,” Leigh told Pro Bono News.
“Once again, this is a government that shows by its actions how little it cares for our charitable sector. Fixing fundraising is a top priority for charities, but it’s languishing in the Morrison government’s too-hard-basket.”
Assistant Minister Seselja indicated to Pro Bono News that the government’s fundraising reform approach would be informed by its upcoming response to the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission review.
“I am consulting closely with the sector in developing our response to the review, to ensure this government can achieve real and effective outcomes for the sector in reducing red tape, building confidence and trust, and ensuring the ACNC is an effective regulator,” Seselja said.