Shift on ACNC welcome but charities need certainty

The new Minister for Social Services has signaled a welcome change of tack on the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission. But instead of putting off plans to scrap the commission indefinitely, it would be better to just walk away from the idea altogether.



Labor welcomes Scott Morrison’s announcement that he will not make scrapping the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission a priority in his new Social Services portfolio. But if he is really listening to the charities sector, he should walk away from his predecessor’s plan to abolish it altogether.    

The Abbott Government had previously committed to axing the commission, which was set up by Labor in 2012 to protect Australians from scammers and streamline charity regulation.

Under former Social Services Minister Kevin Andrews, Australia’s charities endured months of uncertainty as the minister pushed through a Senate inquiry and endless consultations on what should replace the commission. 

Despite his best efforts to undermine the charities regulator, every consultation, study and report found the same thing: charities want to keep the commission.

Pro Bono Australia’s surveys of charities show that four out of five support the charities commission, and virtually none like the idea of handing charities regulation back to the tax office.

Advocates such as World Vision’s Tim Costello and David Crosbie from the Community Council of Australia have been particularly vocal about the need to keep the charities regulator.

Last year, they joined more than 40 major Australian charities – including the RSPCA, Lifeline and Volunteering Australia – in writing an open letter to the Prime Minister which called for the commission to be retained.

Scott Morrison’s comments today signal a welcome change of tack which acknowledges his predecessor got in wrong in working to abolish the commission.

But charities need more than signs and signals – they need certainty. So like Kevin Andrews’ futile relationship vouchers scheme, this is another social services policy the government should officially drop.

Minister Morrison would have Labor’s full support if he opts to keep the commission and finally give the not-for-profit sector some stability after 17 months of upheaval.  

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