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Tuesday, 18 September 2012
Page: 11107


Mr McCORMACK (Riverina) (22:21): The amendments to the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Bill 2012, the ACNC Bill, seek to do a number of things. Firstly, they protect the independence of registered entities by ensuring that the governance standards cannot prevent or constrain a registered charity from undertaking important advocacy functions.

We have heard tonight that this government rushed in the bill to begin with. But it also rushed through these amendments, like everything this government does, at the eleventh hour, without proper consultation. The minister at the table says he has consulted. If that is so, why weren't these amendments part of the original bill? Why weren't these amendments part of the original bill so that when we were considering the bill in the first instance we could have read what was being put forward and voted accordingly? But, no, this government does everything in haste. It does things without thinking. It does things without proper consultation. Here we are again tonight, at this late hour, seeing yet another example of this.

The second point is that it makes the government's commitment to consultation on the governance standards an express requirement of the ACNC Bill. Interestingly enough, on the government's not-for-profit website the ACNC, the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, is actually seeking people to put forward their resumes for consideration for positions on the ACNC. Without this bill even having passed the lower house of the Australian parliament, already on the government's not-for-profit website they are advertising for positions. That is simply outrageous.

Also, the bill seeks to allow basic religious charities to operate deductible gift recipient funds as authorities or institutions which generate annual revenue of less than $250,000 without the need to obtain a separate Australian business number. We have heard tonight that the Australian Baptist church is going to be paying more than $1 million if this bill goes through. It is simply outrageous. This is a church, a faith based organisation, which provides moral counsel and support for so many people—people in need, people at their most vulnerable—that this government now seeks to bring down, to make sure they have to pay even more tax. This is one of the highest taxing governments this nation has ever had the misfortune of having in place.

The amendments seek to streamline the process of providing notifications about changes to governance standards for multiple registered entities using the approved form. Again, it is just more red tape, more bureaucracy, more absolute mangling of things by this government which just wants to put another layer of bureaucracy over faith based organisations, sporting clubs, cultural organisations and voluntary groups. It might be all well and good for the government to be talking about these things in here, but out there in voter land people are rallying against it. They are railing against what this government is trying to do, the bureaucracy that this government is imposing upon them. People just want to be left alone to get on with their jobs. When they dig deep to pay money to charities, to schools, to private schools, to public schools, they do not want to have another level of bureaucracy placed upon them so that their after-tax income is paying for things that really should not be put into place.

The absolute beauty of it all is the final point here: 'make other technical corrections'. Why is it necessary for these amendments to come into place to make other technical corrections? Surely if the government were that intent on putting legislation to this parliament it would be correct, thought through and have had proper consultation? Why the need at this late hour to be then producing amendments that 'make other technical corrections'? It is all well and good if this is going to improve the legislation. Mind you, I think the legislation is ill-thought-through in the first place, and that is why the coalition is opposing it. But surely the minister at the table would have had proper consultation with all the key stakeholders, with all the necessary people, to ensure that everything was in place before the legislation was brought to the House.

But, as I say, as with everything with this government—and we are seeing it at the moment with late-hour changes to the Water Act, before the Murray-Darling Basin legislation is put—and like every other piece of legislation that comes before this House, it is never properly thought through. This is a government on the run bringing decisions about with haste and total incompetence.