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Tuesday, 18 September 2012
Page: 11101

Mr ANDREWS (Menzies) (21:56): We are in the extraordinary position tonight in this parliament that we are debating some amendments that have been moved by the minister opposite, Minister Bradbury, who has not actually outlined what those amendments are.

Mrs Bronwyn Bishop: He doesn't know.

Mr ANDREWS: He may not know, but let me not presume he does not know. We are in the extraordinary position where a minister at the table has moved amendments (1) to (9) and has not spoken about the amendments before the House. One wonders why a minister would move amendments in this place and not have the seriousness to outline to the chamber what—

Mr Bradbury: I did brief you.

Mr ANDREWS: He interjects and I take the interjection. He says that he did brief me. Yes, he did. But did he do the courtesy tonight of outlining to the parliament, outlining to the House of Representatives, outlining to the people of Australia why amendments (1) to (9) were needed? I could ask members on either side of the chamber what they are and I suspect not one person in this House apart from the minister and me could actually tell you what those amendments are.

Let me say something about the amendments which have been moved, because they are so concerning to the minister that he cannot outline them to the chamber tonight. These amendments reinforce the very reasons why we on this side of the parliament believe that this legislation should be absolutely rejected. The amendments fall into three categories. The first amendment is to say to congregations, to parishes and to church and faith groups around Australia: 'If your building fund'—to put it in lay language—'does not exceed $250,000, we are not going to force you, as the legislation currently does, to establish a separate DGR status, a tax deductable status.' That is what the first amendment does, but what it does not do is index that $250,000. So the minimum reporting requirement under this legislation does not move from $250,000 to $300,000 or $350,000 over time, as one would expect. It will be kept at the same level. This amendment does not deal with the future, so far as this is concerned. This is an attempt by the government to placate the churches, who have said, 'This is an absolutely unacceptable contribution so far as we are concerned, on what we normally do, that nobody has ever complained about.'

The second measure here—the minister has not outlined it to the parliament, so I might as well—deals with non-government schools. The government has a plethora of reporting obligations for the education departments, and those reporting requirements for the Charities and Not-for-profits Commission will be for three years only. That just reinforces our objection to this, because after three years what happens? You have the duplication of reporting to the education authorities and also the charities commission. It reinforces our objection to this legislation.

Then, finally, there is something which is common sense which should have been part of the legislation in the first place, but this is to placate the Greens and the objection of the member for Melbourne. In terms of the actual regulatory requirements for government standards, they now say, essentially, that the minister has to sign off that the government standards have been agreed to by the sector. That should have been part of the legislation from the outset.

These are essentially minor transitory changes that are not going to change our fundamental objection to this legislation. This is flawed legislation. We will not oppose these amendments. Why will we not oppose them? Because they are sensible amendments that should have been there in the first place. The minister should have explained them. Our objection to this legislation is that it makes the charitable sector in Australia an instrument, an agency, of the government. That is unacceptable and we will vote against it. (Time expired)