International experts praise Australia's charities commission - Thursday, 10 April 2014

This afternoon I issued a media release that further strengthens the case to keep the Australian Charities and Not for Profits Commission. Experts in Australia for the 6th International Charity Regulators Conference and Forum have praised the work of the new regulator and challenged claims that it is heavy handed and tying organisations in red-tape.





International praise for threatened national charities commission

International charity experts gathering in Melbourne and Sydney this week have praised Australia’s first but threatened national charity regulator for its strong and positive reputation in the sector and high compliance rates.

Experts visiting Australia for the 6th International Charity Regulators Forum have also challenged Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews’ view that the Australian Charities and Not for Profits Commission (ACNC) is heavy handed and tying organisations in red-tape.

Chief Legal Officer with the Charities Commission based in London, Kenneth Dibble, said the ACNC has had “extraordinary” success just 18 month since its inception:

“Introducing new regulations from scratch requires persuasion, good will and real interaction with charities and not for profits.  The ACNC has a mature relationship with the sector as a standalone regulator outside of the revenue office. It is flexible and sensitive to its constituency’s needs in a way that allows the sector to thrive. In such a short time the ACNC has commanded such respect from the sector. It’s very impressive.” – Kenneth Dibble, Chief Legal Officer, Charities Commission (for England and Wales)

Rather than acknowledge the good and vital work of the ACNC, Minister Kevin Andrews is determined to kill off the agency despite fierce opposition to the ACNC repeal. Household names among Australian charities including the RSPCA, World Vision and Lifeline have pleaded with the Minister to keep the regulator.

This week’s global charities conference has brought together academics and leaders in charity regulation from Europe, Canada, the U.S. and New Zealand.

The Chief Executive of the Scottish Charity Regulator, an agency similar to the ACNC in function, also praised the Australian model that Labor introduced when in government in 2012.

“The ACNC team here have done a fantastic job, learning from the international experience. I have a lot of admiration for them. They have put together cutting edge practice with online services and achieved a lot in a short space of time. The agency has good relationships with other government offices, crucially the Australian Tax Office.“ – David Robb, CEO, Scottish Charity Regulator

Mr Robb notes that when his Scottish agency was introduced, moving charities regulation from the revenue office, some people “grumbled initially” but then it garnered widespread public and sector support.

“There was no dedicated regulator in Scotland until 2005. There was little transparency and the relevant department had few resources to check on charities. There was no annual reporting system or active policing. We had some high profile scandals where significant  amounts were misappropriated. The Scottish parliament was persuaded to act.  It was a big step forward. Now basic information is provided to the public and charities appreciate that the regulator understands their business and offers advice sensitive to their situation.” - David Robb, CEO, Scottish Charity Regulator

The conference has heard that more than 83 per cent of registered charities have complied with financial reporting requirements due last month. That’s a higher compliance rate than that achieved by any other comparable charities regulator around the world.

The Abbott Government has no real plan for this country’s charities. It pretends to consult but will not listen to the pleas of the sector which services and empowers some of Australia’s most vulnerable people.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

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