TUESDAY, 14 DECEMBER 2021
SUBJECTS: Scott Morrison’s inaction costing charities millions; Cost of food at Parliament House.
TONY PILKINGTON, HOST: Joining me on the program right now is Dr Andrew Leigh, who's the federal Shadow Assistant Minister for Charities. God, that's a mouthful. By the time you actually do the introductions, it’ll be time to go. Andrew, good morning and welcome to Adelaide.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Thanks, Tony. Great to be with you.
PILKINGTON: Now. Tell us sir, you say that charities because of the colossal amount of bookwork that they've got to go through - something like, I can't believe this, well I can because of the red tape. You say there are seven sets of forms that can take charities weeks and weeks to complete before they can actually launch an advertising campaign to get some money, so charitable donations and especially at this time of the year. What's this all about?
LEIGH: Tony, when we were kids, charities that wanted to raise money would typically go door to door. So charitable fundraising laws are written in the pre internet age, and it's done state and territory one at a time. But that means that if you're a charity that wants to raise money over the internet nationwide, you have to register in seven different jurisdictions. And that can take a staff member up to a week of charity time to do all of that paperwork. That's time they're not spending helping the vulnerable, focusing on the environment, looking after their parishioners. So as a result of this outdated patchwork of laws, charities are being cost over a million dollars a month. It's a sensible thing to get fixed. A bipartisan Senate report came down in 2018, and yet the Morrison Government's done absolutely nothing. Charities are going into another Christmas season with those outdated laws still in place.
PILKINGTON: What explanation is the government offering for the delay?
LEIGH: Pretty much none. I mean, it's the standard sort of ‘too hard, getting onto it one of these days’ kind of excuses. A year ago tomorrow, Josh Frydenberg promised to fix it. But again it's all announcement, no delivery. All promises, no follow through. Charities simply want a government that’s on their side. They've had to fend off all sorts of attacks on charitable advocacy and the ability of charities to have their voice heard in the public debate. And meanwhile, the government can't even do something as simple as bring Australia's fundraising laws into the 21st century.
PILKINGTON: You make the point, Andrew, that it'll be 12 months tomorrow that the government, the Morrison Government promised to fix the country's outdated fundraising laws. What changes would you make if you were to get into government in say March of next year?
LEIGH: We’d provide the federal leadership in order to get states and territories to reform their laws. There's a patchwork of laws - you need to get the states and territories sit down together and work it through. But right now that process is moving at a snail's pace, and charities are suffering and the people who rely on charities are suffering. So we go into a bushfire season with charities that are providing bushfire support having to be distracted by doing this additional paperwork rather than focusing on those who are most in need. There’s so many great charities across Australia - one of the real privileges of this portfolio is getting to spend time with them and their passionate volunteers. And no one I've yet to sit down with says ‘what I really love is filling out extra government forms that I don't have to’.
PILKINGTON: Even the Coalition senators Eric Abetz - who can be a grumpy old so and so at the best of times and Amanda Stoker-
PILKINGTON: That's a fact, let's face it. Even he will admit to that. They signed off on the deadline a year or so ago. But nothing's happened. Are the government offering any excuses for the delay of 12 months?
LEIGH: No, very little. You're quite right to point to Eric Abetz and Amanda Stoker, who signed off in 2018 to a two year deadline. If the government had stuck to that deadline, we'd have charitable fundraising reform done at the start of the COVID pandemic, which would have been really valuable for those charities who were out there helping the community during the Covid lockdown. They would have appreciated not having this extra paperwork burden. Look, it's not the biggest issue in the world. But I think it really does speak to something broader about the government, about the fact that this is a tired government that's gotten into the business of blaming other people. That can't do the hard work of getting sensible reforms in place to look after charities. That's really on the side of sitting on their hands rather than on the side of charities and their hard working volunteers.
PILKINGTON: Andrew, before we let you go, on an altogether different topic. I got a text from Graham, this from yesterday. He said ‘Pilko, is it true that meals and alcohol up in Canberra, up in Parliament House are ridiculously cheap?’ He said this was suggested to Graham sometime over the weekend by somebody who worked on a part time basis up in Parliament House. Is that true, that your grog and meals up there are really inexpensive compared to say the normal fare?
LEIGH: It’s ages since I've eaten the parliamentary cafeteria - I try to get back home to the family whenever I can, because I'm a Canberra MP. But last time I did, I think the prices were pretty similar to what I'd pay in the pub down the street.
PILKINGTON: Really? So that's a bit of a fallacy, that grog and food available in Parliament House, to parliamentarians and people who are working up there is ridiculously cheap? You say not so.
LEIGH: The prices are similar to what you'd pay in a standard Canberra cafe.
PILKINGTON: Ok. Good on you, Andrew. Enjoy your Christmas and thanks for the time this morning. That's Dr Andrew Leigh, who's the federal Shadow Assistant Minister for Charities and he's saying that the paperwork involved, he said it needs to be streamlined. He said it's taking some charities as much as a week to comply with all of the paperwork before they can actually launch their campaigns. So important at this time of the year.
Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra