Government under pressure to take action on fundraising reform
15 August 2019 at 8:19 am
Labor has vowed to keep pressure on the Morrison government to urgently fix fundraising laws, warning that continued inaction is costing charities millions of dollars in red tape.
Opposition charities spokesperson Andrew Leigh urged the government to heed the call from a recent bipartisan Senate report, which recommended Parliament reform Australia’s fundraising laws within the next two years.
Fix fundraising advocates want the government to make this a high priority with clear goals set for the next six months.
Leigh told Pro Bono News red tape was costing charities $15 million a year, as organisations were forced to deal with outdated fundraising laws that varied from state to state and were written pre-internet.
He said charities should not be burdened with unnecessary paperwork that distracted them from helping people in need.
“No side of politics went to the last election saying charities should spend more money on red tape,” Leigh said.
“It’s just a matter of getting it done. I’ve been disappointed that the government doesn’t seem to have made it a priority given the Senate report came out six months ago.”
The #fixfundraising campaign has helped drive the push for fundraising reform in Australia.
This group wants 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.
Why do we want to #FixFundraising? How bad our the current laws? #charities #NFP @ACOSS @AICDirectors @GovInstAus @PhilanthropyAus @PFRA_Australia @FundInstituteAu @ComCouncil @VolunteeringAus @MovemberAUS @WorldVisionAus @acpns_qut @Chartered_Accts pic.twitter.com/wCtoOB8Xm3
— Not-for-profit Law (@nfp_law) August 13, 2019
Leigh said while it was ultimately a matter for government how reform was achieved, it was not tenable in 2019 to have charities governed by laws written decades ago.
“We’ll be holding the government to account over the two year timetable they signed up for with the bipartisan report. This is not just a Labor timetable, this is a Labor-Coalition timetable,” he said.
“They are accountable for the recommendations of the Senate inquiry, and hopefully it can be done as soon as possible.”
Sue Woodward, head of Not-for-profit Law at Justice Connect, admitted last week the likelihood of achieving a fit-for-purpose charitable fundraising regime out of the existing laws was “dead, buried and cremated”.
She advocated for efforts to be put towards tailoring Australian Consumer Law, rather than fighting to streamline state-based legislation.
Woodward told Pro Bono News the first step was for the state and territory consumer ministers to agree – when they meet in Tasmania on 30 August – that this was a high priority.
She said clear milestones should be set for the next six months.
“Labor is right to call on the federal government for action. To call on them for leadership. To call on them to demonstrate that they value the contribution of Australia’s not-for-profit sector,” Woodward said.
“The states and territories are not being asked to repeal their laws in a way that would mean they are vacating the space. They are being asked to use a better toolkit for modern times… that toolkit is the Australian Consumer Law.”
Senator Zed Seselja, the assistant minister for charities, told a conference earlier this month that red tape reduction would be key to the government’s reform agenda for the sector.
Seselja did not offer a timeframe for fundraising reform when contacted by Pro Bono News, but said the government was committed to delivering a response to the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission review, which also recommended major fundraising reform.
“I am engaging with all parts of the sector in this process, meeting with very small charities on the ground, right through to national charities and peak representative bodies in the charities sector to ensure we get the response right,” Seselja said.