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Tuesday, 18 September 2012
Page: 11100

Mr BRADBURY (LindsayAssistant Treasurer and Minister Assisting for Deregulation) (21:51): I would like to address the question of the amendments that are being brought forward. But first and foremost I would like to set out in some detail the process of consultation that occurred in the lead-up to the introduction of this bill and indeed the introduction of these amendments tonight.

I begin by saying that in the first instance an exposure draft of this legislation was released and there was widespread public consultation in relation to that exposure draft. I also indicate that since coming into the role of Assistant Treasurer in March of this year I have personally consulted extensively with the sector. I say this because I hear various quotes being brought forward and parroted by speaker after speaker in the chamber tonight.

Being close to the action, I know that these particular quotes are quotes that were provided in earlier contributions and submissions that were made through this process. In fact these amendments in part respond to some of those concerns. The bill as it stands at the moment takes into account the product of those consultations. The second exposure draft was sent off to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics, and in responding to the issues raised by that committee we made some substantial changes to the bill, and they are reflected in the bill that has been introduced in the House.

Can I also advise the House that in addition to those two exposure drafts, including one that was considered by the House economics committee, there has also been an inquiry into this bill by the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Corporations and Financial Services. Indeed, there were recommendations made by that committee and we have acted and responded to those concerns with the amendments that are before the House tonight. I also advise the House that in addition to that second parliamentary inquiry there was a third parliamentary inquiry, and that was by the Senate Community Affairs Legislation Committee. There are some suggestions that were made by that committee that are also dealt with in part by the amendments that are before the House tonight.

I heard the Manager of Opposition Business talk about his concern about the regulatory burden on parishes and not-for-profit organisations. I draw the House's attention to the specific exemption that is provided for basic religious charities. This is an exemption that has been inserted into the bill. It is very much targeted towards ensuring that those entities operating basic religious charities at the parish level that are not currently subject to regulatory oversight in the way in which this bill provides for uniform national regulation there will be an exemption. Some of the amendments that are now before the House seek to clarify and extend that exemption to ensure that some of the concerns that were raised by the various church groups and parish communities have been responded to. I advise the House that in the discussions I have had with the representative bodies of those religious organisations it has been indicated to me that these amendments have addressed their concerns to their satisfaction. I think it is important that I bring that to the attention of the House.

We believe that these are significant reforms. There will come a time when those opposite—who I know are committed to opposing this bill today and to repealing this legislation if it is brought into effect—will recognise that this is one of the most significant reforms of the charitable sector. The logic of a national regulator of charities is something that will overwhelm them in time. They will appreciate that and they will also come to appreciate—

Mr Tehan interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms AE Burke ): The member for Wannon is warned!

Mr BRADBURY: They will also come to appreciate that this is something that is overwhelmingly supported by the charitable sector, and that is because at the moment there is a de facto regulator of our charities at the national level. It is the Australian Taxation Office. Our charitable organisations have been saying for decades, 'We need a national regulator that understands our needs, that is not solely focused on the question of tax concessions.' Inquiry after inquiry has recommended that. This government has acted on those recommendations. This will be a lasting reform that the charitable sector will look back on as a turning point in strengthening their sector. (Time expired)