The Hon. Dr Gary Johns’ appointment as full time Commissioner of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) is deeply troubling and an attack on Australia’s charities and not-for-profits.
“The decision to appoint Dr Johns as ACNC Commissioner is a big mistake,” said ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie.
“In appointing Dr Johns, the Government reverses the positive work of the Commission and its strong standing across the sector.
“As the regulator for the charitable sector, it is essential that the ACNC operates independently, at arms-length from government and the sector. This gives both government and the sector certainty, trust and transparency. The ACNC has earned the respect of both the public and the charitable sector in Australia by doing just that.
“Dr Johns has expressed a range of views that make his appointment as Commissioner untenable. For example, he has strongly held views that charities should not undertake advocacy at all, and certainly not using public funds. He has also referred to Aboriginal women as ‘cash cows’ and called for people on income support to be forced to use contraception.
“This is another prong in the government’s attempts to stop civil society from having a voice on the issues that affect us all. Just this week the government signalled its intention to silence advocacy by banning international donations to civil society organisations, a controversial position that Dr Johns has previously come out in support of.
“We are very concerned about the attack on advocacy that this appointment represents. Advocacy is an essential part of a thriving civil society, and it is essential that the community sector has a voice into the debates that affect us all. Dr Johns has consistently criticised charities for having a voice on issues that affect the people and communities they work with.
“There’s a charity working in every community across Australia, providing much needed support and relief. Charities employ 1.3 million people and have a revenue of $143 billion.
“The government should be focussed on creating a supportive operating environment for the valuable work of the charity sector, not attacking and destabilising it.
“Every person at some stage in their lives relies on charities for assistance.
“The Prime Minister should step in, and reconsider this appointment.”