The not-for-profit sector has welcomed the first major policy announcement from the Opposition on the future of the charities and not-for-profit sector under a Coalition government.
In today’s address to the Menzies Research Centre, Kevin Andrews, Shadow Minister for Families and Housing and Human Services, emphasised the importance of the charities and not-for-profit sector, the need to build on the value of the sector, its strength and reputation in Australia. The key theme was to empower not-for-profits and reduce government interference and red tape in promoting a stronger civil society.
Dr Cassandra Goldie, CEO of ACOSS said: “we welcome the Coalition’s support for the sector, the commitment to cutting red tape and for the establishment of a new independent Charities Commission. At the same time, we see the administration of taxation concessions for the sector should be separate from effective regulation of charities. We look forward to working to refine their policy further in the interests of better outcomes and improved effectiveness for community services.”
Rev Tim Costello, Chair of the Community Council for Australia said: “it is great that the coalition are willing to work with charities and the not-for-profit sector to reduce compliance costs, needless “administrivia”, and to achieve better outcomes, but it is a concern that they continue to support the ATO as the primary regulator of charities.”
David Crosbie, CEO of CCA was also pleased with the overall themes but expressed some caution: “all parties want to see charities and the not-for-profit sector freed up to do more of what they do best – serving their communities. The real question is how best to achieve this. It is pleasing that the Coalition is committed to working with the sector to achieve real change, to establishing some form of Charities Commission and reducing government imposts, but it will be the detailed implementation that will really tell us whether the sector is much better off.”
Regular reviews of the not-for-profit sector have called for urgent reform. In the last few years, the Productivity Commission and the Australian Senate have all called for substantive changes to the regulatory environments that govern charities and not-for-profits. Currently it is the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) that applies its far reaching powers to the task of regulating all charities and not-for-profit organisations that claim any form of tax concession. If an organisation seeks to challenge a ruling about charitable status from the ATO they can find themselves facing the time and expense of a High Court case.
The not-for-profit sector is a critical contributor to the economy employing around 1 million Australians and turning over close to $100 billion annually. It is bigger than the communications, tourism or agriculture sectors, yet has been largely bypassed in economic reforms across the last three decades.
Fernando de Freitas, ACOSS – 0419 626 155
David Crosbie, CCA – 0419 624 420