TIME TO STOP THE WAR ON CHARITIES
Today, the heads of 25 respected Australian charities are in Canberra, speaking out against the latest attack on the sector by the Turnbull Government.
This comes after two open letters to the Prime Minister from charities concerned about the way that this important sector is being treated.
From its inception in 2011 until the middle of last year, the Coalition tried to abolish the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission, a body recommended by more than a dozen independent inquiries, and supported by the vast majority of the sector.
Since coming to office, the Coalition has had no fewer than five ministers responsible for the charities commission. The latest hapless minister, Michael Sukkar, refused to meet with respected charities commission head Susan Pascoe and her fellow commissioners, then announced that Ms Pascoe would not be reappointed. Months on, we are still awaiting her replacement.
As Senator Louise Pratt has pointed out, the Turnbull Government forces social services charities to sign ‘gag clauses’ to prevent them speaking out on policy issues. Legal and environmental charities are being pressed to stay out of the public debate. The latest attack sees the Coalition attempting to extend the ban on overseas donations to political parties to also cover charities. As Labor members of the Joint Electoral Matters Committee noted in March, Labor does not support such a move.
While the Coalition is waging war on the charities sector, Labor is getting on with the job of engaging with this important sector.
- Bill Shorten has created a portfolio of Shadow Minister for Charities and Not-for-Profits: the first time this important sector has been appropriately recognised on the Labor frontbench.
- Labor is working with states and territories to encourage them to cooperate with the charities commission, so that our voluntary sector can spend less time doing paperwork.
- Labor supports the campaign to fix fundraising - moving from a patchwork of state-based laws into a uniform national scheme, operating within the Australian Consumer Law.
- Labor has conducted nine “Reconnected Forums” across Australia, bringing together more than 1000 charities in total to explore new approaches to boosting community engagement.
The charitable sector faces significant challenges, as social changes decrease the share of the population who join, volunteer and donate. Our hard-working charity sector needs a government that works with them, not against them.
Wouldn’t it be great if the next time charity heads came to Canberra, they were engaging with the government on constructive reform, not fighting yet another battle in the Coalition’s war on charities?
MONDAY, 27 NOVEMBER 2017