Government's ACNC Backdown a Win for Charities
4 March 2016
More than three years after the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission began operation, the Coalition has finally bowed to public pressure and dropped its plans to shut it down.
The charities commission helps charities, donors and taxpayers, by reducing the paperwork burden and improving transparency. Since it started work on 3 December 2012, surveys have consistently shown that four out of five charities support the organisation.
In an open letter, more than 40 charities, including Lifeline, ACOSS, Social Ventures Australia, Save the Children, St John Ambulance Australia, Sane Australia, the Sidney Myer Fund, the Myer Foundation, Danks Trust, the RSPCA, Volunteering Australia, YWCA Australia, Hillsong Church and Wesley Mission Australia, called on the Coalition to keep the charities commission.
Labor created the charities commission after it was recommended by numerous inquiries, including a unanimous 2006 parliamentary inquiry (which included Malcolm Turnbull), and a 2010 Productivity Commission report. It maintains a register of charities, and is Australia's frontline defence against dodgy charities. The charities commission should always have enjoyed bipartisan support.
And yet as strongly as the charity sector supported the charities commission, ideologues in the Abbott-Turnbull Government kept trying to kill it. Under previous social services ministers Kevin Andrews and Scott Morrison, the government made scrapping the charities commission part of its so-called "red tape repeal" agenda. Today's decision by Minister Christian Porter has come nearly six months after he took over the portfolio - six months too late.
Facing the axe has had a profoundly negative impact on the charities commission. Staff turnover has been high - up to 25 percent per year - because the organisation has been unable to offer certainty to its employees. It is a tribute to the leadership of commissioner Susan Pascoe that the organisation has endured these challenging times.
Now that the Coalition has dropped its blinkered objection to the charities commission, it should work with states and territories to make the body a true 'one-stop shop' for charities. The Australian Capital Territory and South Australian governments are already cooperating with the charities commission to reduce duplication in reporting. Other states and territories should be encouraged to follow suit.
FRIDAY, 4 MARCH 2016