Parliament HouseOn Thursday last week (the last sitting day before the Christmas break), the Senate adjourned debate on the Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2013 (which included the amendment to delay the Charities Act) and ran out of time to return to the debate before rising for the holidays.

This means that the Charities Act which includes a definition of charity will commence on 1 January 2014 as planned. This is in contrast to last week when we expected that the commencement of the Charities Act was likely to be delayed. Usefully, David Locke, Assistant Commissioner at Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC), has stated that the ACNC intends to put out guidance for the sector regarding the new definition.

Importantly, charities that are already recognised as having a charitable purpose prior to the commencement of the Act will continue to be recognised as charities in accordance with section 12(k) of the Charities Act.

For more information on the Charities Act, please see our previous blog.

It is unclear whether the Government will attempt to amend or repeal the Charities Act when Parliament resumes in the New Year; however, any amendments may be difficult to pass as the Government does not hold the balance of power in the Senate. Furthermore, the Government’s appetite to amend or repeal the legislation once it commences operation may diminish or be overshadowed with more immediate or pressing issues.

Future of the ACNC

The Government has continued its rhetoric that it will wind back the ACNC and will replace some of the ACNC’s functions with a new “Centre for Excellence”. It is not clear which agency or department will perform the other functions of the ACNC (such as determining charitable status). It is important to note that any changes to the ACNC in the New Year are not necessarily tied to amendments to the Charities Act.

More information

If you would like more information on the Charities Act or the ACNC please contact Bill d’Apice or Anna Lewis of this office.