ANDREW LEIGH MP
SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY
SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR CHARITIES
MEMBER FOR FENNER
SENATOR CATRYNA BILYK
SENATOR FOR TASMANIA
TWO YEARS ON AND STILL NO PROGRESS ON FIXING CHARITY FUNDRAISING
Australian charities continue to spend more than one million dollars per month complying with outdated laws, almost two years after the Morrison Government was urged to take action to reduce the administrative burden.
In 2018, the independent review of the Australian Charities and Not‑for‑Profits Commission recommended that the Australian Government work with the states and territories to create a national, harmonised charity fundraising law.
The recommendation was echoed by the unanimous report of a Senate Select Committee inquiry chaired by Senator Catryna Bilyk. Even Liberal Senators Eric Abetz and Amanda Stoker called on their own government to act urgently.
Charities told the Senate inquiry that the red tape burden of charity fundraising was costing the sector $15 million a year, money that should be going to important causes such as feeding the homeless, protecting our natural environment and helping Australians rebuild their lives after natural disasters.
In a letter sent last Friday to the President of the Senate, Senator Zed Seselja - the Coalition’s sixth charities minister since 2013 - claimed the government was ‘engaging productively with the states’. But the issue hasn’t been listed for discussion in the Consumer Affairs Forum, an annual meeting which includes Commonwealth, state and territory consumer affairs ministers.
For years, charity fundraising reform has been top of the sector’s list for reducing regulatory burden. With so many charities and not-for-profits under pressure through the COVID-19 pandemic, Senator Seselja is still dragging his feet on a change that’s long overdue.
Charities are facing a perfect storm. JBWere expects donations to fall by 7 per cent in 2020 and a further 12 per cent in 2021. Two-thirds of volunteers say that COVID-19 has forced them to cut back on volunteering. A report by Social Ventures Australia and the Centre for Social Impact on notes that one in six charities could be forced to close by Christmas.
Yet the Morrison Government won’t even move on a simple reform that’s backed by senators from all parties.
Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.