In our blog on 9 April 2013 we wrote that the Federal Government had released an exposure draft of the Charities Bill 2013 and Charities (Consequential Amendments and Transitional Provisions) Bill 2013 for consultation.

On Wednesday 29 May 2013, almost three weeks after consultation on the Bill closed the Government introduced an amended version of the Bill into the House of Representatives.

Key changes included in the final Bill are set out below:

  • the inclusion of a Preamble that acknowledges the distinctive and important role of charities in the Australian community, outlines the benefits of a statutory definition of charity and charitable purpose, and states that familiar common law concepts are being used to ensure continuity;
  • clarification of the definition of “government entity” by including an example to provide further information about the State and Territory entities intended to be captured by the definition (see section 4);
  • changes to how the public benefit requirement is described, to ensure it remains consistent with common law principles (see section 6);
  • the description of purposes presumed to be for the public benefit has been broadened to more closely match descriptions of purposes in the Report of the Inquiry into the Definition of Charities and Related Organisations (see section 7);
  • purposes presumed to be for the public benefit are specified under the broader categories of charitable purposes where their link to the broader categories was previously unclear (see section 12 and Part 3 of Division 2);
  • the inclusion of an exemption from part of the public benefit requirement for the purpose of relieving the necessitous circumstances of one or more individuals who are in Australia (see section 8);
  • refinement of the description of entities that hold or manage native title or other traditional land related assets (see section 9);
  • clarification that charities are free to critique the policies of political parties and candidates, as distinct from direct partisan political engagement (see section 11);
  • clear provision for the ongoing status of existing charitable purposes that do not come under the specific categories listed in the Bill (see paragraph 12 (k));
  • minor changes to clarify the provision that allows funds to contribute to charity-like government entities and the provision relating to cy-pres schemes (see sections 13 and 18); and
  • grandfathering of existing charitable entities that provide for ‘poor relations’ and ‘poor employees’ (see Part 3 of Schedule 2 to the Consequential and Transitional Provisions Bill).

The proposed start date for the legislation will be 1 January 2014, however, it will need to be passed in the final sitting session of Federal Parliament before the impending election.

If you would like any additional information please contact Bill d’Apice (Partner) or Anna Lewis (Lawyer).