Charities report welcomed

ACOSS welcomed the report by the House of Representatives Economics Committee into the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Bills 2012. ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said: “The Committee has listened carefully to what the sector has said and has made a series of important and sound recommendations to improve the Bill in the interests of more consistent and effective regulation for our sector, what this reform was always about”.

“A number of the Committee’s recommendations are based on evidence fro m ACOSS and our members and we welcome this evidence of the weight the Committee has given to the sector’s concerns,” said Dr Goldie. “This reform comes out of the recognition that our sector is overly regulated, but ineffectively regulated. The Committee’s recommendations support the explicit objective of reducing this overly burdensome ‘red tape’; while also re-enforcing the importance of a regulatory framework that is proportionate both to the size and scope of charities and not-for-profit organisations, and to the level of risk these organisations pose.”

ACOSS welcomed key recommendations, including:

  • That the objects of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Bill 2012 explicitly include the reduction of red tape
  • That the Government consider incorporating existing or sector-developed governance standards into the Bill through regulation, in addition to a default set of governance standards
  • Redrafting the obligations, liabilities and offences to clarify intent and operation, and

The Committee’s report strikes a sound balance between improving the objects and procedures contained in the Bill in the interests of fair and appropriate regulation, and ensuring that the legislation can be finalised in a timeframe that will enable the ACNC to open its doors on 1 October. Once these improvements are incorporated into the Bill, ACOSS encourages all parliamentarians to support this important reform by passing the legislation that will enable the establishment of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission by 1 October,” Dr Goldie concluded. 

Time for Action on Charities

After decades of discussion, the time has come for real reform for the charitable sector,” according to Rev Tim Costello, Chair of the Community Council for Australia (CCA) and CEO of World Vision. “We have waited a long time to have an independent regulator dedicated to serving the interests of the not-for-profit sector. Many charities are drowning in a sea of compliance, duplication and red tape that provides very limited benefit to anyone. The sooner we can make real progress in reducing this wasted effort, the more time and effort charities can devote to doing what they do best – making a real difference for our communities.”

David Crosbie, CEO of CCA said “The Economics Committee has generally made some very positive suggestions that will improve the proposed new regulator for the sector, and there is no case for delaying the establishment Bills further. The Australian Taxation Office is currently the default gateway to charitable status, a situation that many groups, including the Prod uctivity Commission, have said is unacceptable. The not-for-profit sector is too important economically (employing over 1 million Australians) and socially not to benefit from this proposed reform.”

Rev Tim Costello and Mr Crosbie were speaking after the tabling in Parliament of the House of Representatives Economics Committee Report into the Bills to establish the Australian Charities and Not-for-profit Commission (ACNC). CCA have previously highlighted that at present in Australia, every time a charity interacts with funders and regulators – whether it is a local council concession on rates, a state government approval for fundraising or an Australian Taxation Office concession – they have to prove they are a charity and establish their bona fides. The proposed new ACNC will establish a charities passport which is being developed to cut through much of this red tape. Once established, the ACNC will have to report to Parliament a nd to the not-for-profit sector who will be closely monitoring the work of the ACNC.

Rev Costello said, “for an organisation like World Vision, it is often difficult to explain to people overseas that we do not have a ‘charities registration number’, that Australia does not have a charities regulator, and that copies of letters from the ATO are our way of proving that we are a genuine charity.”

CCA has consistently argued that while the ACNC is not a silver bullet solution to all problems besetting the charities sector, it is a fundamental reform that over time will enable not-for-profit organisations to focus more of their resources on serving their communities and less on wasteful duplication, red tape and compliance.

The revised Bills to establish the ACNC are expected in the Parliament within the next two weeks.