Senate urged to ‘stand up’ for charities
10 August 2021 at 3:53 pm
Time is slowly running out for charities to secure support for a disallowance motion that would stop controversial new regulations coming into effect
Major charities have published an open letter pleading with the Senate to block the government’s contentious changes to charitable governance standards.
The Morrison government tabled new regulations in the Senate last Tuesday to amend the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission’s (ACNC) governance standard 3, which would expand the reasons a charity can be deregistered for beyond serious offences to include more minor offences such as trespassing, theft, or vandalism.
The sector believes the proposal – which is part of a government crackdown on “activist organisations masquerading as charities” – could lead to charities being deregistered for something as simple as a staff member blocking a footpath at a public vigil.
If the Senate doesn’t pass a disallowance motion within 15 sitting days of their tabling, the regulations will come into effect.
The sector has now taken out a full-page newspaper advertisement in Tuesday’s Australian Financial Review calling on the Senate to “disallow these regulations and stand up for Australian charities”.
Signatory to the open letter are Anglicare Australia, St Vincent de Paul Society National Council of Australia, The Benevolent Society, Baptist Care Australia, UnitingCare Australia and Catholic Social Services Australia.
Lin Hatfield Dodds, CEO of The Benevolent Society, said the proposal limited freedom of speech for people working in the not-for-profit sector.
“With these regulations in place, the decision of one staff member to attend a rally could undo an entire charitable organisation, leaving clients without support,” Hatfield Dodds said.
“We shouldn’t have to operate under the weight of such severe consequences, or be afraid that our advocacy work for Australians or the decisions of a few could result in deregistration.”
Baptist Care Australia executive director Nicole Hornsby said the changes could have dire consequences for charitable advocacy.
“We are concerned that these proposed changes limit the capacity for charities to undertake legitimate and lawful advocacy,” Hornsby said.
“The breadth of their application to include such subjective measures as a belief that a charity may commit a minor offence is totally unreasonable.”
This isn’t the first full-page newspaper advertisement taken out by the sector in response to the issue.
In June, charities wrote an open letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison urging him to abandon the reforms. The letter was published in The Australian.