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Thursday, 24 June 2004
Page: 31578

Mr ROSS CAMERON (Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer) (5:37 PM) —I move:

That the amendment be disagreed to.

Mr ROSS CAMERON —I thank the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry. I always welcome his interventions. The member for Corio may be the minister at some future stage. However, there will be an intervening event at which the Australian people will have something to say about it. I certainly hope that we retain the expertise and portfolio commitment of the current minister.

Mr Truss —Thank you very much—I agree with you.

Mr ROSS CAMERON —The bill that I am addressing specifically extends the common law meaning of `charity' to include child-care services. The concept of child-care services is drawn from the findings contained in the charities definition inquiry. The inquiry noted that the common law had long accepted the care and protection of helpless and vulnerable aged people as charitable, but there was no judicial precedent relating to the charitable status of child care. The inquiry considered that it should therefore be clarified that organisations looking after children should be treated as charities in the same way as organisations looking after the aged. The government has fully responded to this recommendation in the current bill. Accordingly, those playgroups which provide care, protection and support of children in the absence of their parents or guardians would be considered charitable.

However, the common law has never considered looking after your own elderly relatives to be charitable. For the same reason, caring for one's own children has never been considered charitable either. Accordingly, playgroups that involve the provision of facilities for parents and children to meet together and socialise do not meet the long-established meaning of `charitable purpose'. As community service organisations, all playgroups are currently income tax exempt and have access to the fringe benefits tax rebate—that is, all playgroups currently have access to the most significant benefits available to charities.

While other tax and non-tax concessions are available to charities, many of these are of little practical relevance to playgroup organisations. For instance, many playgroups would be below the voluntary GST registration threshold. It is therefore unlikely that the prospect of additional GST concessions being available to charities would encourage playgroups to register for GST purposes. In those circumstances, the additional concessions would be of little practical relevance to most playgroups. Therefore, the government disagrees with the Senate amendment.