2CC 1206 AM WITH STEPHEN CENATIEMPO
WEDNESDAY, 15 FEBRUARY 2023
SUBJECTS: AVOIDING CHARITY SCAMS; PRODUCTIVITY COMMISSION REVIEW INTO PHILANTHROPY
STEPHEN CENATIEMPO (HOST): I got to say, it's a bloody disgrace that we have to discuss this, but unfortunately, it's the way of the world in 2023. A week now, or a bit over a week since the earthquake that hit Türkiye and Syria. The death toll is now over 35,000 people. And whilst most of the world is trying to assist those two countries with their rescue and salvage and repair efforts, there are warnings about scammers trying to take advantage of people's generosity. It's absolutely extraordinary. And this is off the back of yesterday, we talked about Valentine's Day scams. Dr Andrew Leigh is the Assistant Minister for Charities, Competition and Treasury and the member for Fenner, and he joins us on the line. Andrew, good morning.
ANDREW LEIGH , ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR CHARITIES, COMPETITION AND TREASURY: Good morning, Stephen. And, look, I think you just hit the nail on the head about how disgusting this is. You've got people buried under the rubble, you've got helpers flying to the other side of the world to assist them, and yet there's this tiny minority of people looking to make a fast buck out of the generosity of their fellow Australians.
CENATIEMPO: Are we talking about local scammers or is this offshore stuff?
LEIGH: Look, mostly it's local that we've seen and it's a tiny minority, but it is something that we want to make sure that people don't fall for. The last thing we want at a moment like this, when money needs to flow to earthquake victims, is for scammers to be making a quick buck. And so I just wanted to get out in the airwaves via 2CC, just to say to people that a straightforward way of checking out whether a charity is fair dinkum -- and that's the Australian Charities and Not for Profits Commission’s website: ACNC.gov.au. They've got a lovely little tool there where you can just do a straightforward look up for any charity that's asking for your money.
CENATIEMPO: Because I imagine that a lot of the problem we've got these days is there's GoFundMe pages and all of those kind of things that anybody can set up. Is there any way to ascertain if you're donating to one of those that the money is going to the right place?
LEIGH: Look, GoFundMe is much harder and I'd really recommend to people if they're going to donate to Syria or Türkiye to donate to a reputable charity. If you're giving to a household name and you're giving through their website rather than through a link that's just been turned up as a text message, then you know your money is going to go to a good cause. It is difficult to get money into an earthquake zone quickly and it's relatively unlikely that someone who has just set up a GoFundMe page is going to have all of those systems in place to make sure that every dollar gets to the victims.
CENATIEMPO: From your perspective, how do you crack down on the dodgy operators here?
LEIGH: Well, obviously they're breaking the law and so you can try to throw the book at them, if you can catch them. But the best way is to make sure that they end up empty handed. My goal is that the victims of the earthquake end up receiving the resources they need and the scammers go home without a cent in their pockets.
CENATIEMPO: Moving on from that, , you're looking at a Productivity Commission review of philanthropic giving in Australia. Talk us through that.
LEIGH: Yes, that's right . We're doing a once in a generation review of philanthropy because we think we need to make sure we get the settings right. This is in a context in which there's been a big drop in community life in Australia. Australians are less likely to play organised sports, less likely to attend religious services, less likely to volunteer and indeed have fewer friends than we did a generation ago. So in that environment, we really need philanthropy to be working for our charitable sector. We've got an ambition as a government to double philanthropy by 2030, and this Productivity Commission review is going to be part of setting a pathway as how we get there.
CENATIEMPO: So when we talk about philanthropy, usually we think about millionaires and billionaires donating part of their income to various charities. Are we talking in a more broader sense than that?
LEIGH: Yes, absolutely. One of the interesting things over the last generation is we've seen an increase in the amount of dollars being donated, but a fall in the share of the population who are donating. So philanthropy is becoming more of an elite sport rather than a mass participation activity. I really love initiatives such as Kids in Philanthropy that tries to build a culture of giving back among to school kids. Initiatives such as workplace giving, which encourage people to be able to give out of their pay packet modest amounts each week to a cause that really matters. Whether it's giving to environmental charities, to the arts, to sport, or indeed, to earthquake victims overseas, there's a cause for all of us.
CENATIEMPO: You know if you want to increase that, you need to bring our cost of living down?
LEIGH: Yeah, it's a huge challenge right now and I think many people are feeling that philanthropy is just one more thing on top of a whole range of costs. But I also know that there's people who do dig deep at those difficult times. People who, while they’re struggling to pay the mortgage, are still finding money to assist the earthquake victims overseas. And that’s the fundamental decency of Australia goes right back to the Great Depression. People were doing it tough, but they looked out and they saw others who were doing it tougher and they gave generously. And that’s a wonderful Australian spirit.
CENATIEMPO: Indeed, Andrew, good to talk to you this morning.
LEIGH: Likewise, Stephen. Thanks.
CENATIEMPO: All the best. Andrew Leigh is the Assistant Minister for Charities, Competition and Treasury and the member for Fenner.