Federal Election Watch: Not-for-profit organisations and charities now on the election agenda

The status and activities of Australian not-for-profit organisations and charities have made it onto the Federal election agenda. This follows charity policy announcements yesterday (7 May) by Labor Shadow Ministers Dr Andrew Leigh (Charities and Not-for-Profits) and Mark Dreyfus (Shadow Attorney General). Media coverage includes The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age (“Labor seeks to end ‘war on charities’”) and 9 News.

“It is great to see a potential incoming government announcing policies that will improve the capacity of charities to serve their communities,” said David Crosbie, CEO of the charity peak body the Community Council for Australia.

“We’re used to politicians talking about what business needs, but charities are rarely given a second thought, despite all the reform needed to ensure we have a strong charities sector moving forward. Over 1.3 million people work in Australia’s charities sector. Charities turn over more than $140 billion, are the heartbeat of our communities, and just like business, they need increased certainty and support if they are to invest in their services and improve outcomes for the people they serve. We welcome these announcements and look forward to working with a dedicated Charities Minister should the ALP form government after the election,” David Crosbie said.

Community Colleges Australia supported the remarks by David Crosbie and Community Council for Australia, joining other key representatives of the charities sector, including Save the Children, Our Community, Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education, Fundraising Institute of Australia, Australian Council for International Development, Australian Conservation Foundation, Adult Learning Australia, World Wildlife Fund, Community Broadcasting Association of Australia and Volunteering Australia.

Community Colleges Australia CEO, Dr Don Perlgut, said: “As not-for-profit community-managed organisations, almost every Community Colleges Australia member is a registered charity. We support any policy changes that will allow our members to fulfill their roles as builders that develop and sustain their local communities through education and training. Undertaking these activities in a not-for-profit environment is a key to their success.”

The ALP policies include:

Establish a Not-for-profit Sector Expert Reference Panel to work with Treasury, charities and not-for-profits, business, philanthropy, volunteering and other key stakeholders to produce a future Sector Development Plan for the charities and not-for-profit sector. 

Establish a ‘Building Community – Building Capacity’ Working Group to implement recommendations from the Not-for-profit Sector Expert Reference Panel and work with charities to ensure they can be focal points for community building and collective purpose. 

Fix fundraisingthe Charity Minister will start the process of harmonising Australia’s fundraising laws with States, Territories, Treasury and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. 

Freedom to advocateLabor will introduce a range of new measures including amendments to Charities Act 2013 to ensure advocacy is seen as a legitimate and appropriate charitable activity. 

Reinstate the Annual Charities Report and increase the power of the ACNC Advisory Board. 

Charity PassportLabor’s Charities Minister will work with relevant Commonwealth departments and agencies to ensure the charity passport – one stop shop – scheme works.

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