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Tuesday, 18 June 2013
Page: 6050


Mr BRIGGS (Mayo) (12:55): I appreciate the offer from the Assistant Treasurer to hand some notes over to help me make this contribution, but I will not need them. We stand as one in opposition to this bill. It is another step in the Labor Party's dream of regulating every aspect of our society. This is of course an area that has operated in our country at law prior to Australian courts being established. In fact, the definition of charity came under an English statute. This really gets to a difference in view between the Labor Party and our side of politics. The Labor Party seek to put strict black-letter law definitions around these sorts of organisations, whereas we think the common law definition has operated very successfully for a very long period of time. I know we should not breach the standing orders and discuss these matters across the chamber, but during one of the contributions it was mentioned that the former Treasurer, Peter Costello—Australia's greatest ever Treasurer—had looked at this issue when he was Treasurer of our country for 11½ years and he decided that it was not worth defining in legislation what charities are.

Mr Bradbury: He said it was too hard.

Mr BRIGGS: The Assistant Treasurer is right. He said it was too hard to define what charities are because they have varied operations, tasks and, more importantly, purposes. That is why we think that the common law definition, which has operated so successfully, should continue.

This is a government that is obsessed with regulation. The Assistant Treasurer's colleague, I think it was the member for McMahon when he was the Assistant Treasurer, promised in the lead-up to the 2007 election there would be 'one regulation in for one regulation out'. I think the record is 14,000 new regulations in and one regulation out. That has been the record of a Labor government. You cannot trust the Labor Party to make things simpler for business and charities. You can only trust them to make things harder because that suits their political desire to regulate our society to within an inch of its operation.

We saw that with the charities bill that they moved in this parliament some time late last year. We do oppose this bill. We, on our side of parliament, believe in civil society, we believe in community organisations and their ability to deliver services in our society that governments could not possibly ever seek to deliver or deliver well, because, ultimately, volunteers—

Mr Bradbury interjecting

Mr BRIGGS: Assistant Treasurer, that is the belief, on our side of politics, about our civil society. I can defend them from your vicious and ongoing attacks of trying to regulate every moment of their lives. We stand for charities in our society. We stand for our civil society. We stand in defiance of a government that is trying to make it harder for them to get on and do what they do so well. So many of our volunteer organisations, which deliver so many services in our communities, are there for the good of their people. It could not be delivered by government because, ultimately, government is too far detached—whether they have good intentions or not—compared to community organisations, charities and people who are doing it because they genuinely care and desire to do better in our society.

We will abolish this legislation if it does pass. I think it is one of about 40-odd bills still to pass the parliament between now and whenever the parliament rises, although I suspect the current Prime Minister wants the parliament to rise at 5 pm on the dot next Thursday afternoon. I suspect it is the first time in a very, very long time that the final sitting day of parliament before the election will actually be the allocated final sitting day, and I think we all know why that is. I suspect the Prime Minister is in her office making sure that COMCARs are ordered to be at the door for members: 'Is the member for McMahon's COMCAR ready to go at 4.45 next Thursday? Yep? Done—bang. Who's the next on the list? Make sure the member for Reid, from Western Sydney, has his car.' They do not want to be here for a moment longer than they have to be, so this might be one of those bills that do not quite get through, but it does again give us an indication of what the Labor Party's attitude to our civil society is.

Of course, what we suspect might be going on here is that the Labor Party would like to use black-letter definitions of charity to reward some of its preferred charities—can we put it that way?—or organisations it would like to create the scenario to fund. As we have seen in the UK experience, it demonstrates how dangerous it would be to empower public servants to determine whether an organisation is a charity or is not. We do not need more bureaucrats to tell us what charities can do good work in our civil society. We believe in our people and in the way that the law has operated for so long. That is why we have such a great tradition in our country of such a strong civil society and such a strong charity sector. And that is why we are opposed to this bill. The former Treasurer, the greatest Treasurer the country has ever had, looked at this. We should follow in the wise direction that that Treasurer took, because he is a wise man and he understood that it was too hard to define what it is to be a unique organisation in our society that can deliver such important services.

We stand in contrast to those on the other side, who believe in regulation, believe in bigger government and do not believe in our people. We, on the other hand, believe in our people. We believe that they know what is best for them and are able to deliver the services as such. We stand opposed to this bill. We will repeal it if we are elected in September—if we get to September—because we do not believe it has good intent at heart.