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Tuesday, 18 September 2012
Page: 11098


Mr PYNE (SturtManager of Opposition Business) (21:40): Typically, the government has introduced landmark legislation to regulate charities and not-for-profits which has been debated in this House. Then the government has felt the need to come in and amend their own legislation, because they are so incompetent that they were incapable of getting their legislation right in the first place.

One of the amendments the government is moving tonight has to do with the schools portfolio, which is my portfolio. In the so-called consultations they had with the education sector, they discovered very quickly that the changes to the treatment of charities and not-for-profits dramatically increased the red tape requirements of charities and not-for-profits, which meant that every single school—every single non-government school as well as government schools with trusts and foundations and not-for-profit instruments—suddenly found itself overwhelmed with red tape that it would not have otherwise have to comply with. They also found that a bill that was designed to harmonise state and federal regulations in fact introduced an entirely new level of regulation.

The Assistant Treasurer did not even do the House the courtesy of explaining the amendments he was moving in the House tonight. He simply stood up and moved that amendments (1) to (9) as circulated be agreed to. He did not even do the House the courtesy of explaining what these amendments mean to the national charities and not-for-profit sector. So I assume that these are the amendments that affect schools. He did not explain them, because he does not know what he is doing. And I was making the point—

Mr Perrett interjecting

Mr Dreyfus interjecting

Mr PYNE: Oh, come on, Rumpole. You have only been here one term; you do not really know what you are doing.

Mr Perrett: Two, actually.

Mr PYNE: And you have been in trouble before for your foolish interjections across the chamber. But let me say this: charities and not-for-profits across Australia realise that these amendments do not repair the holes in this bill. Before the government introduced this new level of regulation, charities and not-for-profits in this country were travelling along perfectly well. The government then decided, in negotiation with the states, that they would implement new rules for charities and not-for-profits. But all that has happened is that the states have kept all their regulations and the Commonwealth has imposed a new raft of regulations across the sector. The Catholic sector and the independent schools have stood up and said: 'We already comply with 50 state bills; we already comply with about 20 Commonwealth bills. All you are doing is introducing a new level of regulation with which you expect us to comply.'

So the government, with their facade consultation, went away and came back with these amendments, which they think will solve the problem. But when is the government going to get one bill right in this House so that it does not require amendment upon amendment, even when it is being introduced? We have already voted on the second reading. In the consideration in detail the government so incompetently introduced its own amendments.

Mr Snowdon: Oh, shut up.

Mr PYNE: You can say shut up, rudely, because of your complete incapacity to understand the basic requirements of this House.

Honourable members interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms AE Burke ): Order! The member for Sturt will resume his seat. I am having difficulties. I do not believe my microphones were working, but now they are. They need to stay on. The member for Sturt has the call and he will not be interjected on. He has the call and he will get another 10 minutes.

Mr PYNE: That is very generous, Madam Deputy Speaker. I am so grateful for the opportunity for another five minutes to finish my remarks. I was making the point that this is a very important bill. These are very important changes. The Labor Party think it is tremendously amusing to put every volunteer organisation—whether they are local parishes across Australia, whether they are non-government or government schools—at risk of being unable to continue. They think it is tremendously funny.

The philosophies behind the Labor Party's reforms are that they always assume that someone is doing the wrong thing. They never assume that volunteers could be doing the right thing. The Labor Party's ideological position is that we must regulate it. If it is not regulated we must get government involved. The bureaucracy always advises them: 'There are one or two examples of mistakes that have been made, so let's regulate the whole sector. Let's cover the field.' And Labor always follows. But there are hundreds of thousands of volunteers out there in the community, across Australia, not just in schools but in parishes and local communities, who will now be subject to draconian regulation, draconian legislation that interferes in every aspect of their trust or their charity. This is a big mistake the government is making.

Why aren't we trying to encourage volunteering? Rather than giving out certificates, which we are pleased to do, and rather than giving out more medals, which we are pleased to do, the Labor Party pays lip-service to volunteers. But when it comes to the on-the-ground activities of volunteers they say, 'Let's regulate them; let's bring in the heavy hand of government,' as if they are not already following the rules and as if they are not already following regulations at the state level. The government said, 'We will regulate and the states will give away their rights,' but they have not. So the government has found itself in this terrible bind where it is now introducing a whole new level of regulation for charities and not-for-profits, and it is in the embarrassing situation yet again of coming into this House and amending its own original legislation on the very night when it is being passed by the House of Representatives.

As the shadow minister for education I will stand up on behalf of the coalition for all the schools across Australia, both government and non-government schools, that have trusts, charities and foundations and use all of those resources to improve infrastructure, to pay scholarships, to hire extra teachers, to support disabled children. They are already overcome and overburdened with regulation and they have lobbied me and counselled me about how they would like to see this legislation not proceeded with.

Mr Bradbury: Name them.

Mr PYNE: You asked me to name them. The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference made very strongly worded submissions to the draft round of consultations. They are still not happy, even with the amendments the government has made, because they take exception to the assumption that somehow they are trying to do someone in, to do someone down, just because they are charities, parishes, school foundations or school trusts.

The coalition will campaign on this issue right through to election day, whenever that might be, whether it is in October or November, whether it is in February or March next year or whether the government is even prepared to hand down one more budget.

Mr Dreyfus interjecting

Mr PYNE: Hand down one more budget, Rumpole, and we will see that you have a $25 billion deficit and no surplus at all. I will take money on the government not handing down another budget in this place and having to face the wrath of the people for the things they have told the Australian public that they know are not true.

Behind me there is a plethora of speakers who want to stand up on this issue and stand up for their charities, their parishes, their trusts and their foundations in government and non-government schools and to support parents who put money into these organisations from their after-tax income. They do not want to see that money being spent on more regulation, more government control, more form filling, more red tape and more green tape. They want their hard earned after-tax dollars to be spent on looking after the children, the disadvantaged and the underprivileged who are served by all of these charities and parishes. I urge the House to reject these amendments and reject this legislation. (Time expired)