Fundraising reform remains ‘just out of reach’
12 November 2020 at 4:39 pm
The federal government has finally responded to a report from the Senate Select Committee on Charity Fundraising in the 21st Century
The charity sector remains frustrated by the slow rate of progress towards achieving fundraising reform following the release of the government’s response to a Senate fundraising inquiry.
The Morrison government this week tabled in Parliament its response to the Charity Fundraising in the 21st Century inquiry, almost two years on from the release of the Senate Select Committee’s report.
The committee unanimously recommended the government provide a response to the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) review report, and work with states, territories and the not-for-profit sector to develop a national fundraising model within two years.
In its one-page response, the Morrison government said it had responded to the ACNC review in March this year, and added that it “notes the recommendation” for a national fundraising model.
The government said it was conscious of differing regulatory requirements for fundraising across the country and said it would continue to work with the states and territories to harmonise charitable fundraising laws.
It also mentioned that it “actively supported” the release of a discussion paper in August that outlined a cross-border recognition model.
This would automatically give ACNC-registered charities authority to fundraise in all participating Australian states and territories.
The assistant minister for charities, Senator Zed Seselja, said at the time this was a significant step on the path towards fundraising harmonisation and red-tape reduction for the charity sector.
“We have been working to fast-track the harmonisation of fundraising, particularly with New South Wales who are leading the states in work on the cross-border recognition model,” Seselja said.
But fundraising reform advocates are not convinced the government is doing enough.
Charities Crisis Cabinet spokesperson David Crosbie said he was not surprised by the non-committal response from government.
“After more than a decade of seeking a harmonised approach to fundraising regulations in Australia, it is not surprising that yet another meeting of government ministers has arrived at yet another commitment to do something, while very little has actually been done,” Crosbie told Pro Bono News.
“It seems to be another case of expecting charities to wait patiently for an overdue change in regulations that never arrives.”
Crosbie said while he hoped this would lead to meaningful action, he wasn’t confident.
“The obvious solutions to the fundraising regulations issues have clearly been within sight for many years, but somehow they always remain just out of reach. I can only hope I am wrong this time,” he said.
ALP condemns government response
Labor has slammed the government for taking 21 months to deliver its response (despite it being due within three months).
Senator Catryna Bilyk, who chaired the inquiry, said it was outrageous it took so long to produce a one-page response.
“That is pathetic, and an insult to the charities who collectively spent hundreds of hours writing submissions and giving spoken evidence to the inquiry,” Bilyk said.
Bilyk said the release of the discussion paper was welcome but that harmonisation of charitable fundraising laws could only be successful with federal leadership.
The shadow assistant minister for charities, Andrew Leigh MP, said the Morrison government was passing the buck on an issue that was costing the sector more than a million dollars each month.
“Each year that goes by without a solution to the duplication of charity fundraising laws is costing charities $15 million,” Leigh said.
“That’s money, generously donated by Australians, being eaten up by red tape which should be going to the important social, economic, environmental and animal welfare causes that charities and not for profits champion.”