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Monday, 17 June 2013
Page: 5877

Ms BRODTMANN (Canberra) (19:55): These bills form part of a much needed and long-overdue reform of the not-for-profit sector in Australia. I am pleased to be part of a government that is making these necessary reforms and I know that the not-for-profit organisations in my electorate of Canberra will be better off because of them.

The cost of the regulatory burden placed on not-for-profit organisations is an issue often raised with me when I am out speaking with representatives from the not-for-profit sector in Canberra. For example, at the Winnunga Nimmityjah Aboriginal Health Service in Narrabundah they have had to employ a full-time administrative staff member just to manage these regulatory requirements. Essentially, that means that they have had to employ someone who works every day of the year—except the holidays—just to work on filling out paperwork and managing the regulatory requirements. For community based organisations such as Winnunga, which see on average 3,000 patients per year with a growth rate of about 80 new patients per month, there are certainly better uses for their limited resources than administration.

The government's reforms are designed to help organisations such as Winnunga to ensure that they can focus on the important work they do in our communities, not on regulation. The reforms implemented by this government cover three key areas. The first area of reform is regulatory reform, including establishing the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission and introducing a new statutory definition of charity. The second area of reform is tax reform, including reforming the regulation and taxation of the not-for-profit sector. The third area of reform is funding reform, including streamlining government funding agreements and reporting requirements. This is particularly important because I am all for transparency. We need accountability, we need transparency and we need to understand where federal, state and territory money is going in terms of these not-for-profit organisations, but we do not want to make the regulation burden onerous.

The government is also working with state and territory governments to reduce the regulatory burden on the sector through COAG. This work includes: considering the application of the Commonwealth statutory definition of charity, which we are debating tonight, for states and territories; developing a nationally consistent approach to fundraising regulation; harmonising the definition of which activities conducted by charities will be considered non-charitable; and reviewing governance and reporting requirements for the not-for-profit sector. All of these reforms seek to reduce the regulatory burden on the operations of not-for-profit organisations allowing them more resources to carry out the good work they do—the great work they do—to focus on core business.

Perhaps the most significant part of this reform process so far has been the establishment of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission. The commission was established as the first independent national regulator of charities in Australia and the commission was intended to maintain, protect and enhance public trust and confidence in the not-for-profit sector through increased accountability and transparency; and to provide support to the sector to ensure that it remains robust, vibrant, independent and innovative.

The commission began operations on 3 December last year and it is already working hard to achieve a reduction in unnecessary regulatory obligations for the sector. On a practical level, the commission registers organisations as charities. It helps charities understand and meet their obligations through information, guidance, advice and other support. It maintains a free and searchable public register so that anyone can look up information about registered charities. It works with the state and territory governments as well as individual federal, state and territory government agencies to develop a 'report once, use often' reporting framework for charities. The 'report once, use often' framework is just so important because it will allow charities to report once to the commission and allow authorised government agencies to then access this information, thereby eliminating the need for charities to report the same information to different government agencies.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms Vamvakinou ): Order! The debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 34. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting. The member will have leave to continue speaking when the debate is resumed.