Minister Andrews fakes consultation over charities commission repeal

I issued this media release today, highlighting the shallow consultations Social Services Minister, Kevin Andrews, has had with the charities and not for profits sector about fundamental changes to the way the sector is regulated.

Minister for Social Services, Kevin Andrews, has given a false impression of his engagement with a range of charities, not for profits and sector experts about what replaces Australia’s world-class, one-stop shop for charities, the Australian Charities and Not for Profits Commission (ACNC).

In response to a question on notice asking for details of who has been involved in consultations about what might replace the ACNC, the Minister lists 31 people representing 23 organisations.  

The problem is that a number of people on the list believe they were not consulted. They have told my office that they are concerned the Minister has sought to mislead the public about their involvement in consultations with his personal staff and the Department of Social Services (DSS).

One correspondent wrote:

“It was in no way a consultation and I will write to the DSS and the Senate Committee to have my name removed from the list as I was not consulted in any other forum or at any other time.”

“Clearly Minister Andrews has a different definition of consultation from the standard one. He hides behind the illusion of consultation to ram home an ideological agenda,” said Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh.

“Some of the experts the Minister claims to have consulted were at a not for profit forum at the Melbourne Law School on 28 February. The Minister has crudely cut and paste the names of people who attended the forum, some of whom were not asked for their views at all.”

“Instead, forum attendees were told that Kevin Andrews was fixed in his opposition to the ACNC and would not budge regardless of the evidence.”

“It takes a special kind of chutzpah to send your adviser along to tell a forum that the Minister isn’t interested in hearing their views, then list the attendees as people who you’ve consulted with. The fact is that Minister Andrews isn’t listening. If he was, he’d drop his ill-considered plan to get rid of the charities commission,” said Dr Leigh.

Last year Minister Andrews promised charities and not for profits a discussion paper on the future of the charities commission, but like other promises made by the Abbott Government, it has not been kept.

Last week’s one-day Senate committee hearing into the repeal of the ACNC heard that axing the commission would  benefit those who oppose transparency.

In providing evidence, Chair of the ACNC Advisory Board, eminent Australian Robert Fitzgerald, said opponents of the ACNC had established red tape as a “straw man” to justify their views.

An overwhelming number of submissions into the Senate Inquiry into the ACNC Repeal Bill No. 1 appeal to the Government to keep the ACNC. According to a survey, four out of five charities support the work it is doing. More than 40 charities and not for profits, including the RSPCA, Lifeline, the Hillsong Church and Myer Foundation, have signed an open letter asking the Prime Minister to keep the commission.

TUESDAY, 27 MAY 2014 

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Cnr Gungahlin Pl and Efkarpidis Street, Gungahlin ACT 2912 | 02 6247 4396 | [email protected] | Authorised by A. Leigh MP, Australian Labor Party (ACT Branch), Canberra.