A truly national scheme for charities regulation has come one step closer, as I joined Deputy NSW Opposition Leader Linda Burney and Shadow Minister for Fair Trading Tania Mihailuk to announce that a Foley Labor Government would sign New South Wales up to the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission. Here's the transcript:
NSW PARLIAMENT, SYDNEY
WEDNESDAY, 18 FEBRUARY 2015
SUBJECT/S: NSW Labor signing up to Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission
LINDA BURNEY, NSW DEPUTY OPPOSITION LEADER: Thank you for coming. I'm joined today by Andrew Leigh, the federal Shadow Assistant Treasurer, and Tania Mihailuk, the Shadow Minister for Fair Trading here in New South Wales. Today we're announcing that a Foley-led Labor Government would sign up to the national charities commission. This commission was put in place by Labor in 2012 and its role is to make things simpler for charities across Australia. A Labor government, led by Luke Foley in New South Wales, commits itself to being part of the charities commission, and to allow charities in New South Wales to have less paperwork. This means they can concentrate more on what they should be doing, and that's being out there working in the community. I'll ask Andrew Leigh to make some more comments now.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: Thanks very much Linda, and it's a real pleasure to join Linda Burney and Tania Mihailuk for this important announcement. The charities commission isn't a partisan idea; it's an institution which protects donors, taxpayers and charities. The announcement that a Foley Labor Government will sign up to the charities commission is great news for the 18,000 charities in New South Wales. It means they can spend less time doing paperwork, and more time helping the vulnerable and building social capital in our community. I'd now call on the federal Minister for Social Services, Scott Morrison, to bring the charities commission out of the Twilight Zone. He appears to have a policy of scrapping the charities commission, but then on the other hand says that scrapping it isn't near the top of his agenda. So he ought to come on board. He ought to sign up to support the charities commission, to stand on the side of charities and against scammers, who are the only ones who have anything to fear from the charities commission. Tania, did you want to say a few words as well?
TANIA MIHAILUK, NSW SHADOW MINISTER FOR FAIR TRADING: We're delighted to be joined here by Andrew Leigh today, and to make it very clear that a Foley-led Labor Government will support charities only having to deal with one organisation through the national regulatory scheme. It is difficult for charities when they get caught up jumping through bureaucratic hoops, filling out double the paperwork when they shouldn't have to. We want charities focused on what they do best, and that is supporting people that need their help.
JOURNALIST: What does the commission do that makes life that much easier for charities?
LEIGH: Previously charities regulation was handled by the Australian Tax Office and no-one liked that arrangement. Now, since the charities commission has come in, surveys show that four out of five charities want it to stay in place. Only about one in 20 want to go back to the old regime of having the tax office manage charities. The charities commission is for charities what the Australian Securities and Investments Commission is for corporations. It's a one-stop-shop for reporting that ensures charities can spend as little time as possible doing paperwork; that people have a place to go if they're wondering whether the person on their doorstep is a reputable charity representative or a scammer; and that taxpayers have a level of accountability which ensures tax deductions are going to real charities.
JOURNALIST: What's the benefit of having other jurisdictions signing up to it? Why do you need the states to approve of this idea?
LEIGH: Well as happened before under the old, pre-1990 corporations law arrangements, it was more complicated for companies to have state and federal reporting requirements. The same thing goes for charities. Charities need a one-stop-shop because requiring them to fill out the same forms for the state government and the federal government is frustrating for them and takes away energy that could be used to build a stronger community.
BURNEY: I think the other thing to say is that many charities don't have a lot of resources. So it's best for them not to be spending 50 or 60 per cent of their time filling in forms and meeting regulatory requirements. If there is one place where they can do it simply and on a single occasion, it means they've got more resources to do the work that they need to do. Many charities rely on part-time workers, and many more only have volunteers. So the less red tape and regulation for charities, the better.
JOURNALIST: What sort of powers of enforcement does that commission have, for charities that aren't maintaining their paperwork or showing that they're putting a certain percentage of the money gained into community work? What sort of enforcement can they do?
LEIGH: Charities can be de-registered if they haven't responded to requests for information, and the charities commission has recently de-registered a significant number of charities which had essentially ceased to operate. In certain cases too, charities that are engaged in scams can be de-registered and that's really important for donors to know. To have the confidence that when someone knocks on your door, you can just go to www.ACNC.gov.au and check out their bona fides. I don't know why the federal Liberal Government is committed to getting rid of the charities commission. After all, bipartisan inquiries have recommended setting up a charities commission – including one that was signed up to by Malcolm Turnbull during the mid-2000s.
JOURNALIST: Mr Leigh, just on another matter, the Shadow Treasurer didn't appear to know what the tax free threshold was on the news last night, is that something someone in his position should know?
LEIGH: Politics isn't a pop quiz. It's about having the right values to govern the nation. Chris Bowen's values and Labor's values are that we need to make responsible budget savings rather than giving money away to those who don't need it. This is a government that has cut the wages of the cleaners who clean their offices while giving more than a billion dollars to some of the largest multinationals in the world. So Labor will always be standing on the side of responsible fiscal repair. Let's face it, when we've got a Treasurer who thinks that poor people don't drive cars, who compares the GP tax to a couple of middies of beer, who doesn't know the difference between a progressive and a regressive tax. That's the real problem.
JOURNALIST: And you, of course, know what the tax-free threshold is?
LEIGH: $18,200. But let's face it, politics is not a pop quiz. Thanks everyone.
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