Monday, 21 June 2021
Questions without Notice
Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission
My question is to the Minister representing the Treasurer, Senator Birmingham. The proposed changes to standard 3 of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission regulation of 2013 have been labelled by the Law Council as unnecessary, cumbersome and inconsistent with the of the ACNC Act. Others say these changes will have a chilling effect on lawful policy advocacy by charities. They will bury them in red tape and stop charities from working to improve the lives of Australians. Why is the government making these changes? Why shouldn't the sector see this as an attack on the ability for them to advocate?
I thank Senator Siewert for her question. It is always nice to get a detailed policy question, although sometimes when it is particularly precise in detail it can be a challenge to be able to provide the granular information that the senator may wish to receive in response initially. I will take the senator's question on notice and provide a swift response to the chamber for her.
I thought that was a fairly simple question. It's about why you are doing it. The government claims this is implementing the recommendations of the ACNC expert panel, when the panel actually explicitly recommended that that standard be repealed. How is this implementing the recommendation if the expert panel said it should be repealed?
I'm sorry, Senator Siewert, but I don't have a copy of the recommendation in front of me or, indeed, the detail of the response. I am happy to provide for the senator as much information as I can on notice in relation to the specific issue that she has raised, and I will endeavour to do so as promptly as I can.
The proposed changes allow the ACNC commissioner to make judgements on potentially unlawful activities by charities. If a charity breaks the law, shouldn't it be dealt with under criminal law and, in fact, under standard 5?
Certainly if laws are broken then it ought be handled under criminal law. Equally, if laws are broken in the administration and operation of a charity then I would imagine that Australians would expect there should be consequences for the operation of the charity itself as well. Again, I'm happy to provide further detail in responding to Senator Siewert given I don't have full information on the specific issues she has raised before me.
Senator Siewert interjecting—
I appreciate Senator Siewert would like to debate the issue right now, and I apologise to her that I don't have the information she would wish in detail right now. But I will undertake, as I have, to make sure I provide those details back to the chamber.