TUESDAY, 1 MARCH 2022
SUBJECTS: The Liberals dragging their feet on reform and costing charities millions; Ukraine.
GRAEME GOODINGS, HOST: Well, the Prime Minister has been under attack on the fundraising front. Dr Andrew Leigh, the Shadow Assistant Minister for Charities, claims Scott Morrison's failure to act on fundraising reform is costing Australian charities millions. Let's get him to explain this to us. Dr Andrew Leigh, good morning to you.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Good morning, Graeme. Great to be with you and your listeners.
GOODINGS: Yeah. What's your major grievance?
LEIGH: Charities have called for years for fixing Australia's outdated charitable fundraising laws. They were designed in a pre-internet age, and they're just not fit for purpose for online fundraising. Right now, if a charity wants to fundraise online, it needs to register in seven different jurisdictions - paperwork that takes them a week. That means that the cost to Australian charities in complying is over a million dollars a month. Yet the government, despite being told to fix it by the Royal Commission on Natural Disaster Preparedness and a bipartisan Senate report, has done absolutely nothing. So regular charities continue to have to jump through unnecessary hoops. Meanwhile, Peter Dutton sets up a fundraiser which if he was a charity wouldn’t be allowed under current fundraising laws.
GOODINGS: I was going to ask you about that. He's established a crowdfunding campaign to assist flood victims. An unusual move.
LEIGH: Good on him for his altruism. But I'd rather he first stepped out to help the charities that have been doing it tough and who have to comply with laws that he doesn't as an individual. The fact is that this is a government that has underspent out of its emergency response funds, hasn't put in place the appropriate disaster preparedness such as flood levees, sea walls, cyclone shelters, evacuation centres. All of those things would be funded out of the Emergency Response Fund under Labor, but at the moment they can't be supported by the government.
GOODINGS: You mentioned something there that caught my ear, about when a charity is trying to register and get a fundraising event up and going. They've got to register with seven different jurisdictions?
LEIGH: That’s right. Everywhere except the Northern Territory requires people to register. And so that means that charities are spending much too much time doing that paperwork. It was called for by a bipartisan Senate inquiry chaired by Catryna Bilyk, which brought down its report in February 2019. It set a two-year timeframe on the government to fix fundraising. Needless to say, they didn't meet that deadline. And right now, charities are still having to jump through unnecessary hoops, fill out unnecessary forms in order to have the right to fundraise legally.
GOODINGS: Is this a situation that - I mean, we've had this issue with COVID because the way Australia is set up, federation, the states can make a lot of the rules. Can the government, and we're just talking about here changing charity legislation, can the government overrule the states and can they make a blanket ruling that covers all states and territories?
LEIGH: No, they need to work cooperatively with states and territories, which sadly is something the Morrison Government hasn't got a very good track record of doing. It requires a concerted effort to sit down and harmonise charitable fundraising laws. But it shouldn't be beyond the wit of a competent government to do it. After all, that's what we did with corporations laws in the late 1980s, culminating in the 1990 Corporations Act - set up ASIC and took away the duplicate state and territory requirements on cooperation. But we still haven't managed to do that with charities more than a generation on. And it's time we made life easier for charities rather than making life harder, as has happened under the coalition government.
GOODINGS: How do you assess Australia's contribution to Ukraine?
LEIGH: I think we've done well, in terms of supplying appropriate assistance. I think I'd like to see us be ready to take Ukrainian migrants, whether that's refugees or through the skilled or family reunion program. We were caught a bit flat footed with Afghanistan. Labor had urged the government to be ready to take refugees from Afghanistan, but we very clearly weren't ready when the call came. And I hope that that's something that's been dealt with in the case of Ukraine, and we're ready to welcome those who need a safe haven.
GOODINGS: Dr Andrew Leigh, thanks for your time today.
LEIGH: Always a pleasure, Graeme. Thank you.
GOODINGS: Dr Andrew Leigh, Shadow Assistant Minister for Charities, claiming Scott Morrison's failure to act on fundraising reform is costing Australian charities millions of dollars.
Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra