A win for Australian charities as they enter the modern age

Yesterday I issued a media release celebrating the Coalition's failure to abolish the new statutory definition for charities that will take effect on 1 January 2014.





A win for Australian charities as they enter the modern age

Shadow Assistant Treasurer, Andrew Leigh, says the charitable sector can breathe a sigh of relief that a long-awaited reform will go ahead in the new year.

“From January 2014 a new statutory definition of charities championed by Labor will apply – one that reduces costs, provides clarity for charities and protection for those doing advocacy.”

Without consulting the not-for-profit sector Minister Kevin Andrews tried to scuttle the change with an amendment that would have forced charities to continue to rely on 400 years of common law.

“Mr Andrews has failed. The new definition will apply from January and until such time as a repeal passes the Senate,” said Dr Leigh whose portfolio involves charities and tax.

“The charitable sector overwhelmingly supports a statutory definition of charity. No one wants to wade through court cases to decide if they’re a charity.”

This has been a long time coming. Back in 2000 former Prime Minister John Howard announced the establishment of the Charity Definition Inquiry saying:

“We need to ensure that the legislative and administrative framework in which they operate is appropriate to the modern social and economic environment. Yet the common law definition of a charity, which is based on a legal concept dating back to 1601, has resulted in a number of legal definitions and often gives rise to legal disputes.” – John Howard

“The sector, which employs up to a million Australians and fought hard for the Charities Bill 2013, has been alarmed that Minister Andrew sought to delay the new definition and keep charities stuck in the 17th century,” said Dr Leigh.

During a committee hearing this week, World Vision Australia CEO and Community Council of Australia Chair, Reverend Tim Costello gave evidence supported by other sector representatives that the sector was very surprised by the Government’s attempt to take Australian charities back four centuries.

“This new definition is extraordinarily important for all of us. With the consultations and over 200 submissions made, I have not heard of anyone in the sector who was troubled by this definition.”’ – Tim Costello

“Advocacy is not a dirty word. It gives individuals and disadvantaged groups a voice. I’m delighted the new definition will apply from January – positively affecting many organisations working with vulnerable Australians this Christmas who seek to create lasting change,” added Dr Leigh.


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