On Wednesday, 19 March 2014, the Abbott Government launched its “cutting red tape” agenda by introducing into Parliament an omnibus of legislation designed to repeal what it says is 9,500 unnecessary regulations and 1,000 redundant Acts of parliament.
The Government claims that removing 50,000 pages from the statute books will “save individuals and organisations more than $700 million a year, every year”. Its new website www.cuttingredtape.gov.au claims that it has already achieved these savings to date, with about $300 million more to come if it is to meet its target of $1 billion. Next Wednesday, 26 March has been branded by the government as “Autumn Repeal Day”. Its plan is to have two repeal days a year.
Along with the omnibus, the Minister for Social Services, Kevin Andrews, introduced a bill to repeal the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC) Act 2012 (Cth). The Minister did not introduce a bill to repeal the Charities Act 2013 (Cth).
Interestingly, an unusual feature of this new Bill is that it states that it will not come into effect until the legislation relating to the proposed successor to the ACNC (the “Centre for Excellence”) has been passed.
In abolishing the ACNC in its present form, the Government would also be killing off any chance of it developing into a “one-stop-shop” regulator for the third sector, which of itself would have surely reduced compliance costs for the sector over the medium to long term, so just how effective the proposed abolition of the ACNC would be in reducing red tape and therefore costs for this sector is difficult to see.
Most if not all readers would also agree that proper reform of the sector would include harmonisation of the various state and territory regimes for approval of charitable fundraising activities. The Government’s approach does not seem to even consider that might be a possibility for “cutting red tape” in the sector, and in fact, that type of reform will become impossible if it abolishes the ACNC.
It may not happen. The bill is to be debated in Parliament on Repeal Day next Wednesday so we will report back again after that. In the meantime note that it will be business as usual at the ACNC (even if the “repeal” legislation is passed) so you would be forgiven for wondering what all the fuss was about.
What do you need to do?
In the meantime, if yours is an ACNC-registered charity, don’t forget to file your 2013 Annual Information Statement with the ACNC by the extended cut-off date of 31 March 2014 (for those with June-July reporting periods), together with a financial report if you have chosen to do so.