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Thursday, 21 August 2003
Page: 19214

Mr LATHAM (2:00 PM) —My question is directed to the Treasurer. Has the Treasurer seen representations from the Cancer Council of New South Wales pointing out that his Charities Bill 2003 will limit the extent to which the Cancer Council can speak out in the battle to defeat cancer? Those representations state:

Many of the local services and health programs provided by the Western Sydney Regional Office of the Cancer Council will have to be cut back or even discontinued if the charities bill is passed, a big loss for the 1.9 million people (of Sydney's west).

Can the Treasurer assure the House that his bill will in no way limit the work and services of the Cancer Council in the all-important fight to beat this terrible disease?

Mr COSTELLO (Treasurer) —As I have made entirely clear, the draft bill which the government has prepared in relation to charities codifies the current common law. I would have thought the member for Werriwa, if he had not understood that previously, would have understood that by reading what I wrote in the Financial Review on the subject yesterday.

Mr Latham —I read your brother.

Mr COSTELLO —He interjects that he did not read it. I would recommend to him that he read what I had to say in the Financial Review yesterday, which is this: `As the commissioner's charities pack currently provides, in order to be a charity at common law, one needs to have a charitable purpose. One can engage in lobbying activity, if that is incidental to the charitable purpose.' The instructions which were given to the parliamentary draftsman were in fact to produce a bill which codified that position, and the bill does in fact do that. As I have also indicated, this is the reason why the government is in no great rush to pass the bill because, whether the bill passes or not, the law on this point does not change: to be a charity one must have a charitable purpose. One can engage in lobbying activity, if that is incidental to the charitable purpose. But a lobby group—that is, a group which exists for a predominant or dominant purpose of lobbying—does not qualify under the common law, nor would it qualify under the draft bill.

Mr Latham —I seek leave to table a letter from the Cancer Council of New South Wales. The letter is to members of parliament in Western Sydney, of which I am one.

Government members interjecting

Mr Latham —They are representations to me and your colleagues.

Leave granted.