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Monday, 17 September 2012
Page: 10786

Ms RISHWORTH (Kingston) (18:35): I am very pleased to rise today in support of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Bill 2012 and the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits (Consequential and Transitional) Bill 2012. Charities and not-for-profit organisations form an important part of our communities. According to statistics the not-for-profit sector is large and diverse, with around 600,000 organisations in operation across Australia. There are hundreds operating in every electorate across the nation, working to make our communities better places to live.

In my electorate I have a great number of well recognised and some lesser known—but no less great—not-for-profit organisations that function to provide key support for people living in Southern Adelaide. I am proud of the great work carried out by these not-for-profit organisations. I was very pleased over the weekend between the two parliamentary sittings to visit Meals on Wheels at Happy Valley and celebrated with their volunteers. I also had great pleasure in hosting a barbeque to raise money for juvenile diabetes—especially for Hannah Gordon, who is the local ambassador, in my electorate, raising awareness of type 1 diabetes. Indeed, on Sunday I ran—'lumbered' is perhaps a more appropriate word!—to raise money for the Sammy D Foundation through the City to Bay run in Adelaide and raised a bit of money there. These are just snapshots of some of the great organisations.

The Sammy D Foundation has come to light lately and I would like to talk about the great work that they do, because they work with young people to raise the issue of youth violence and alcohol fuelled violence. They talk about respect, about safe ways for young people to get together and about how important sport is. They provide really important lessons in life for young people, so I wanted to mention them.

In addition we have the Riding for the Disabled Association and Southern Junction Community Services, who do a great job in providing housing and support services for young people in the electorate as well as support groups for domestic violence and sufferers of illness such as Parkinson's. We have a great Royal Society for the Blind branch in my local electorate that does a great job. The list could on.

There is no denying that these not-for-profit organisations provide wonderful assistance to my local community and the wider community. These not-for-profit organisations are providing extra assistance through the provision of food and shelter. They connect people with a social network or support group and they even provide people with an opportunity to learn a new skill or maintain a hobby. I should probably do a shout-out for the camera club as well. They do a great job in getting people reinvigorated in taking pictures. These organisations do a wonderful job.

Depending on the size and scale of an organisation the amount of funds they raise per year can be quite modest, or quite a lot. According to the ABS figures, not-for-profit organisations contributed $43 billion to Australia's GDP, and eight per cent of employment in 2006-7. From this figure, it is evident that a significant effort is being put into raising significant amounts of money by the not-for-profit sector.

It is estimated that around 400,000 of these organisations would receive support from the government in the form of tax concessions. In 2010-11, Commonwealth taxation concessions to the not-for-profit sector amounted to almost $3.3 billion. So these organisations are making a big contribution, and government is assisting through issues around taxation.

Not-for-profit organisations could not do the work that they do without their donors. Often it is those who have the least who will give to things like the Red Shield Appeal. The generosity that I see every day, of community members providing their support to fund-raising campaigns, is really impressive.

There is no crisis in public confidence when it comes to the not-for-profit sector. That does not mean that we should not ensure that we continue to make this area transparent, and ensure that there continues to be trust between those in the not-for-profit sector and the local community and government. I think it is really important that we continue to make sure that when people make a donation they have confidence that their donation is going to an organisation that really does make a difference. So it is important that we ensure that there is transparency, and that this transparency will maintain the confidence that people have in the not-for-profit sector.

Some of the changes before us today also simplify the regulatory system that governs charities and not-for-profits. I heard the previous speaker talking about how this bill was not wanted by the not-for-profit sector. That is not really correct. The not-for-profit sector has, for some time, been talking about changes—changes that are in this legislation—which will reduce regulatory requirements, make compliance a lot more simple and reduce the red tape.

The not-for-profit sector does not want to be regulated by the Australian Taxation Office and the Australian Securities and Investment Commission, which is currently the case. They do want an independent body that understands their needs and focuses on their needs.

There have been a number of reviews, and I will just go into the background of why we are here today. There have been six separate reviews of the charitable and not-for-profit sector. The Productivity Commission, in 2010, made a number of recommendations. According to the report they found that the current regulatory framework governing the sector is 'complex, lacks coherence and sufficient transparency, and is costly'.

Other problems identified included a lack of consistency and comparability in financial reporting requirements, and significant differences in fundraising legislation between jurisdictions, which added to the costs incurred by the sector. The Productivity Commission report made a number of recommendations. One recommended reform was to implement a central body within the Australian government. This echoed the conclusions of earlier reports.

This side of the House listened to the Productivity Commission's report and has acted. Through this legislation we are establishing a new office for the not-for-profit sector supported by the new Not-for-Profit Sector Reform Council made up of representatives from across the sector. This will ensure, as I said, that the regulatory framework—the regulatory body that is looking at the not-for-profit sector—actually understands the sector. I think that is an important point.

Undertaking a scoping study for a national regulator for the not-for-profit sector to remove the complex regulatory arrangements currently in place and streamline reporting arrangements is another important part of the reform. The report also recommended a focus on greater harmonisation and simplification between the federal, state and territory governments on not-for-profit issues, including regulation. It recommended reducing red-tape for government funded not-for-profit organisations. So I am very pleased. I think this bill goes a long way

It satisfies three important objectives: to maintain, protect and enhance public trust and confidence in the not-for-profit sector; to support and sustain a robust, vibrant, independent and innovative not-for-profit sector; and to underline the important role the ACNC will have of promoting the reduction of unnecessary regulatory obligations on the not-for-profit sector.

These are sensible changes that the government is making. We have heard a lot from those opposite about how this will not really make it better for the not-for-profit sector. I do wonder why, then, we have heard organisation after organisation welcoming this. A whole range of different organisations—whether it be ACOSS, the Community Council for Australia, the Smith Family or the RSPCA—support the government's agenda. That is because these changes are something that the not-for-profit sector has been calling for, to ensure, as they move forward and become bigger and more successful, that they can continue to reform and to perform their duties with less red tape, and that the regulator meets their needs.

Many not-for-profit groups are welcoming this. They have been calling for this—in fact, they have been pushing for this. So it is disappointing that the opposition are doing what they do best, and that is saying no. They are saying, 'No, we're not going to support this,' even though the stakeholders support it and there is a lot of positivity around it. Of course, they are not taking that into account. They are just saying no, which is very disappointing. I believe that this legislation is important for the not-for-profit sector moving forward. It will maintain transparency and the confidence of the public but also ensure that it is easier for not-for-profit organisations to operate in the future.

I would like to conclude by once again congratulating all the charities and not-for-profit organisations right around this country. Of course, as I am a little biased, I would like to particularly thank those in the electorate of Kingston, who provide so many great services. I have only mentioned a few of them today, and I apologise to all those I have not mentioned. All of them are incredibly valued, and all of them, as previously mentioned, have a significant number of volunteers that work very hard. I think it was estimated in just a small local council area that if all the volunteers packed up and left they would need something like 200 staff to do that work. The volunteers are incredibly important and contribute significantly. I think there would be a big bill for government if they were not doing that work. Their contribution certainly needs to be recognised. On that note, I commend the bills to the House. I thank non-government organisations and volunteers for doing the great work that they do.