REGULATING CHARITIES: THE INSIDE STORY
Thank you for inviting me to launch this important book. This work delves into the history as to how the Australian Charities and Not for Profits Commission came to be. You can see from Susan Pascoe’s chapter a discussion of the many reviews that led into the charities commission. You can see the extensive use of data, the careful analysis of the numbers of charities we have, the weight of charities, the important role they play in the community.
You can also see the forward looking approach to thinking about where charities regulation needs to go next. Too often we can be overly focussed on what’s going to be sorted out by the end of the week. But it is vital that we have an eye to the long game. What this volume helps us do is to think about what a ten or a twenty year charity agenda looks like.
For me, that’s very much about looking at what ASIC has been able to do in the corporate regulatory space. There are great benefits to having a nation made up of states and territories that do different things. But in the area of regulation, that overlap can often just be burdensome. We took those burdens of state corporate regulations away from our business sector in 1989-1990 and I don’t think anyone’s argued for them to come back. Looking at how we can encourage states and territories to play better with the ACNC is clearly a long-run reform.
It‘s much the same in the fundraising space, where at the moment large charities face an invidious decision between either spending a week a year complying with seven different regulatory requirements or else just register in one state or territory and just cross their fingers that they won’t get caught. We can do better than that.
The hope of being able to get these things right is twofold. First, we’re able to build a charitable sector that can better share ideas, that the charities commission doesn’t just become a place that stores databases but also becomes an entity that encourages learnings to pass between different sectors. We know we have a ‘Bowling Alone‘ problem in Australia, that social capital has been waning. Information sharing across our charities can help to build it up again. The second big thing is making sure donors can do a better job in comparing the charities they choose to give their money to. I do a podcast called The Good Life and spoke recently to Peter Singer, who said that he starting tithing in the early 1970s with Oxfam. But now as he’s gotten involved in the effective altruism movement, Singer has moved away from Oxfam because he’s made the judgment that the impact of other charities is greater.
Givewell.org, the effective altruism movement, the work that Singer and others have done has sat on the shoulders of others in the charity regulation space. To do the best job we can of making sure that charities change the world for the better, charitable regulation must be improved.
So congratulations to all involved in this impressive volume. It‘s a real delight and a pleasure to have you in Parliament House for its launch.