The Future of the ACNC Remains Uncertain
On 16 June 2014 the Senate Committee delivered a divided report on the Australian Charities and Not-for-profit Commission (Repeal) (No 1) Bill 2014 (No 1 Bill).
No 1 Bill
Unsurprisingly, the Liberal Senators supported the abolition of the ACNC, however, the Labor and Greens Senators offered dissenting reports appealing for the ACNC to continue. The dissenting reports noted that the ACNC is preferable to returning to the previous regime of regulation by the ATO and ASIC.
The No 1 Bill was introduced into the House of Representatives on 19 March and now will return to the House of Representatives where it is likely to be passed by the lower house. Part 1 of the Bill contains the necessary provisions to repeal the ACNC and Part 2 provides for transitional arrangements, importantly, allowing for the Minister to specify a successor agency.
If passed, the Bill won’t come into operation until the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (Repeal) Bill (No 2) (which has not yet been introduced) is successfully passed.
No 2 Bill
The Senate Committee report noted:
“the No 2 bill will have to deal with such matters as what agency will now endorse not-for-profit organisations as charities, and to what extent the Commonwealth will continue to regulate the governance of charities. It is not yet clear what will be the functions of the National Centre for Excellence” [paras 1.22 and 1.23].
A National Centre for Excellence?
The Department of Social Services has commissioned the Centre for Social Impact (CSI) to develop a preferred model for the proposed National Centre for Excellence (NCE).
CSI will deliver a report for the Department on options, recommendations and a preferred model for the NCE in early September 2014.
Developing the scope of the NCE and its intended functions will occur through a two-step consultation process. Firstly, CSI has made available an online survey which will collate stakeholder views about the potential activities, purpose and models for the NCE. In phase 2, a paper outlining potential models will be distributed and a second round of stakeholder feedback sought, before a final report and recommendations will be prepared for the Department of Social Services.
The phase 1 survey closes on 30 June and there has been limited publicity within the sector regarding this consultation process.
Regarding phase 2, the Department of Social Services has stated:
“An Options Paper will explain the ACNC replacement arrangements and provide options on how key functions will be transitioned to the ATO and ASIC.” The paper will be available on the Department’s website and stakeholders will be invited to provide written submissions.
In addition to written submissions, a series of consultation forums will be held in July and August. Dates and locations will be advertised on the Department’s website before the end of June 2014. If you are interested, register online to attend.
Written submissions will be accepted up until four weeks after the last open forum is held.”
If you would like to participate in this consultation process we recommend visiting: http://www.civilsocietycentre.org.au/
With only one more week of Parliament, Bill No.1 may not pass the House of Representatives until after the winter break. Importantly, it may have trouble passing the Senate as any legislated outcome may depend on the views of the Palmer United Party. Furthermore, in our view it is unlikely that the No.1 Bill will be introduced into the Senate until the details of the No 2 Bill, including the CSI report have been finalised which won’t occur before September 2014.
Until then, the ACNC Commissioner, Susan Pascoe has stated “the ACNC remains Australia’s charity regulatory body until the Parliament votes otherwise”.
We recommend that charities continue to comply with their current obligations including submitting their Annual Information Statement, notifying the ACNC if they are listed on the register of missing charities, and notifying the ACNC if they wish to withhold information from the online register.
Should you have any questions in relation to the ACNC or any other matters please do not hesitate to contact Bill d’Apice or Anna Lewis in our office