Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Current HansardDownload Current Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Tuesday, 11 September 2012
Page: 10270

Ms HALL (ShortlandGovernment Whip) (20:43): I rise to support the legislation before us tonight. In doing so, I would like to pledge my support for the not-for-profit sector and for all those tens of thousands of volunteers that work within the communities that every politician in this parliament represents, because it is the work of those volunteers and the not-for-profit sector that really help our society function in the way it does. The legislation before us tonight is the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Bill 2012 and the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (Consequential and Transitional) Bill 2012.

As previous speakers on this side have outlined, the legislation establishes the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, which I will refer to from here on as the ACNC.

It charges ACNC with registering not-for-profit entities and maintaining a public register; it provides for the powers of the ACNC Commissioner in relation to the regulation of registered entities; it establishes a single national regulatory framework for not-for-profit entities; and it sets out the obligations and responsibilities of registered entities. All these things are very important—it is all about transparency, accountability and ensuring that our not-for-profit sector functions appropriately.

The new regulatory framework will enable the implementation of a robust and streamlined regulatory framework for the not-for-profit sector, including a report once, use often reporting framework. Anyone listening to the previous speaker, the member for Bradfield, would think this was about increasing reporting requirements, about making it harder for the not-for-profit sector, when in fact it is all about cutting red tape and reducing the bureaucracy. A report once, use often reporting framework is one way that this legislation will bring that to fruition.

The new regulatory framework will also support the sector's transparency, governance and accountability, and I think every member of this House would like to ensure that the not-for-profit sector is transparent and would like to be satisfied that governance and accountability are in place, ensuring that we have a strong and viable not-for-profit sector. It will provide information to the public about the not-for-profit sector, assisting donors to make more informed choices and promoting philanthropy. That is also very important, because the not-for-profit sector is becoming more and more important in our society. The public needs to have confidence in the administration, the governance and the accountability of the sector. That is what this legislation does—it gives the public, investors and those people who rely on the not-for-profit sector that confidence.

The objects of the ACNC Bill are to maintain, protect and enhance the public trust and confidence in the Australian not-for-profit sector. I have touched on that slightly already by emphasising how the bill does exactly that, and how important it is for the not-for-profit sector to enjoy the trust and confidence of the Australian people. The bill will also support and sustain a robust, vibrant, independent and innovative Australian not-for-profit sector. I do not think anyone could disagree with that object—it is imperative. The third object of the bill is to promote the reduction of unnecessary regulatory obligations on the Australian not-for-profit sector. Listening to the previous speaker, you would believe that all this legislation does is increase red tape and regulation, when in fact it is not about increasing regulation—it is about ensuring confidence in the not-for-profit sector, it is about reducing regulation and it is about giving confidence to the community, to those who use the not-for-profit sector and to those who invest in it.

All members would be aware that the not-for-profit sector is large and diverse. It is a key part of Australia's community, providing many important services to those who are disadvantaged or in need. The not-for-profit sector operates in many areas. It is actively involved in the provision of aged care, in the provision of services that assist unemployed people and in the provision of support to people who need assistance in a variety of ways. It is because of this important role that the not-for-profit sector plays in our community that we need to ensure confidence while at the same time reducing red tape. It is fair to say that the not-for-profit sector is growing strongly, and it is important that that growth be promoted while maintaining transparency and reducing unnecessary regulation. Often this regulation hinders the ability of not-for-profit organisations to deliver on their core goals. I work very closely with a number of not-for-profit organisations in my community, and I know how their services are valued and how important it is that the right sort of framework is in place.

One thing that quite disturbed me when I was preparing to make this speech was the number of reviews of the not-for-profit sector over the last 17 years. I think there have been something like six reviews—there has been review after review after review but unfortunately there has been no action. There is strong evidence that there need to be changes in this area. All six separate reviews of the charitable and not-for-profit sector have recommended a national regulator. I ask myself, who does not support a national regulator? And it is no surprise to learn that the opposition are opposing it—just as they oppose practically everything. One thing the opposition are good at doing is saying no, and that is what they are saying here—no to reform and no to putting in place a national regulator.

It is really disappointing, when we have a positive and proactive reform, as is encompassed in the legislation before us—a reform that will strengthen and support the not-for-profit sector as it grows and develops into the future—that those on the other side of this House are opposing it. This reform has strong support from across the not-for-profit sector, from organisations such as ACOSS, the Community Council for Australia and the National Roundtable of Nonprofit Organisations. These are key players in the not-for-profit sector, yet those on the other side of this parliament are refusing to support this legislation. This sector has been subjected to six reviews over 17 years, with no action. What those on the other side of this parliament are saying is, 'No, we do not want any action and, no, we do not want to listen to those key players in the not-for-profit sector.' These are players who have been involved in the sector for many years. They are asking government to give them a national regulator and they support reform.

Reform for the not-for-profit sector was an election commitment of the government. The government's reform agenda for the not-for-profit sector is quite ambitious. We want to implement some of the most progressive reforms this sector has seen over the last century. In doing that, we recognise the key role that not-for-profit organisations play in our community. We want to assist them by putting in place a one-stop regulator. A one-stop regulator will really benefit not-for-profit organisations.

Whilst the previous speaker was quite scathing about the government's intention to negotiate with the states and territories on a national regulator, the government is totally committed to doing it. It is imperative that the states do not react in a parochial way but rather look at what the best outcome for the not-for-profit sector is—what the most effective way for not-for-profits to operate is and how they can operate with efficiency while at the same time giving the community a high level of confidence in the sector.

The government has undertaken extensive consultation. There was an inquiry held by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics. A number of recommendations were made and those recommendations have been taken seriously—some changes have been made to the legislation as a result. I believe the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee is handing down its report tomorrow and I will be very interested to read that. As I have mentioned, this sector has been the subject of six reviews, an inquiry by the economics committee and an inquiry by the Senate committee—for 17 years this issue has been looked at and looked at, but no action has been taken.

It is time there was some action. It is time both sides of this parliament listened to the issues raised by the sector. It is important that government acknowledges the key role played in our community by the not-for-profit sector and, at the same time, puts in place the right regulatory framework, a framework which will enable the sector to deliver and to do so in a efficient and effective way.

I know that seeking their support for the legislation is asking a lot of the opposition. A critical flaw in their policy is that it does not address the deficiencies which currently exist. I believe that, if they are really serious about supporting the not-for-profit sector, they need to acknowledge the fact that there are currently deficiencies in the system as it operates now. This legislation sets out a real reform agenda which is going to make it easier for the not-for-profit sector to operate and I wholeheartedly support the legislation before us tonight.