Government proposal to repeal the ACNC

7 May 2014
Not-for-profit Law has made submissions to a Federal Senate Committee in favour of retaining a national regulator for charities

Not-for-profit Law has made a submission defending the national charities regulator (ACNC) to the Senate Economics Legislation Committee (Legislation Committee). The Legislation Committee sought submissions on the Federal Government's Australian charities and Not-for-profits Commission (Repeal) (No.1) Bill 2014. The Bill provides for the repeal of the ACNC, however does not provide details of a successor agency, with these details proposed to be included in a second stage of the repeal process.

Not-for-profit Law's submission notes:

  • the proposed "2 stage" repeal process is inherently flawed, given informed debate on the ACNC Repeal Bill No 1 is not possible if details of the successor agency or agencies are not provided and there are no details as to the interim arrangements. Also, it leaves the sector in a state of uncertainty whilst the details of the ACNC Repeal Bill No. 2 are worked out

  • if the Government intends to return the sector to a regulatory regime that has been analysed as costly, complex, lacking coherence and a barrier to the contribution of the not-for-profit sector, then it ought to provide Parliament and the public with greater details of the impact of this latest policy on the sector

  • the level of public consultation in relation to the ACNC Repeal Bill No. 1 has been disappointing. We recommend deferral of consideration of the Bill until the Government has an opportunity to undertake full consultation in accordance with the Australian Government Guide to Regulation (2014)

  • feedback provided by the sector to our lawyers on the ACNC is positive, with consistent comments on the helpfulness and responsiveness of ACNC staff

  • the RIS to the Bill asserts that some of the purposes for which the ACNC was established have not eventuated. This appears to be narrow view given that only 15 months have passed since the establishment of the Commission, and

  • regarding potential replacements for the ACNC if repealed:

    • the ATO and ASIC are institutionally entrenched in regulating in the ‘for-profit’ context. Their overarching philosophies, objectives and approaches are incompatible with the effective regulation of the voluntary sector, and

    • both the ATO and ASIC are focused on enforcement and have been known to rigorously investigate and prosecute contraventions. The charitable sector requires a different regulatory approach in view of their mission-driven nature. The ACNC’s regulatory approach is designed specifically to meet the sector’s needs for practical assistance to comply with regulatory obligations, using enforcement powers only as necessary in serious cases (such as fraud).

Not-for-profit Law is very pleased to see the large number of submissions uploaded to date (with many still to be uploaded). An interesting mixture of small and large charities, as well as many advisors and peak organisations that work with charities made submissions to the Legislation Committee.

Overwhelmingly, the submissions made publicly available to date support a national regulator for charities, and note significant improvements in the regulation of charities since the opening of the ACNC. Many submissions also note that in the 15 months since it opened, the ACNC has not yet been given an opportunity to refine its operations and meet the goals underpinning its establishment.

You can download Not-for-profit Law's submission to the Legislation Committee here:

PDF iconSubmission to Senate on Government proposal to repeal the ACNC.pdf

You can read other submissions that have been uploaded to date on the Legislation Committee website here.