Regulatory Reform Gains Momentum at Senate Hearings

The Senate Select Committee on Charity Fundraising in the 21st Century is holding hearings around the country to obtain opinions from stakeholders on the current state of fundraising in Australia, report on the current framework of fundraising regulation for charities, and examine options for reform. The committee is scheduled to report their findings in February 2019.

In late October, when I was a witness at the Senate hearings in Sydney, I urged senators to recognise the work being done by the states to simplify and harmonise their registration and licensing requirements while ensuring consumers are protected from fraudulent activity.

At the hearing, officials from NSW Finance, Services and Innovation had told the committee they were actively working with other states to reduce duplication for charities that fundraise across state borders. That is a great step!

As well, NSW Minister for Better Regulation Matt Kean recently announced plans to amend fundraising laws so that if a charity has already gone through the lengthy process of registering with the ACNC, NSW Fair Trading will accept their Commonwealth registration with the appropriate evidence.

In testimony at the Senate hearing, I suggested a ‘one-stop’ platform be used to register fundraising campaigns across the country, to be operated by the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC). If technology is creating problems towards harmonisation among the states, then let’s find a technology solution to fix it. Wouldn’t it be terrific if there was a platform in which all states can ensure that every organisation and individual fundraising in their jurisdictions has registered in one place? If that existed, they could receive donations from other states or other jurisdictions, and those gifts can be properly accounted for.

Fundamentally, the states are concerned about knowing who’s fundraising in their jurisdictions: are they legitimate, are they appropriately registered and licensed, and can we be sure that this is not a scam of some kind?

In addition, I reminded Senate Committee members that FIA remains opposed to a mandatory national code. I’m worried the committee will recommend, and the Australian government will introduce, new fundraising regulations such as a compulsory national code without prior agreement to harmonise with the states and territories. If this happens, FIA members will end up, as was the case when the ACNC was established in 2012, with more regulation, not less.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is also opposed to a mandatory code. In its submission, it said “…we consider arguments for a mandatory industry code under the CCA [Competition and Consumer Act] as an appropriate way to deliver regulatory harmonization are misplaced and would result in ineffective deregulation of the NFP sector. There are a number of ways in which state and territory regulations can be harmonized and modernized that are not limited by these challenges.”

In other news, Tuesday, 27 November is #GivingTuesday, a global day of giving that uses social media and collaboration to encourage people to volunteer or donate to the causes they care about. Created in 2012 by the community center 92 Street Y in New York and the United Nations Foundation, Giving Tuesday serves as a welcome counterpoint to the rampant and over-the-top consumerism of shopping events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday which are popular in the US and here in Australia.

Last year, 98 countries participated, raising millions of dollars for charities. Giving Tuesday is a great time for Australians to start focusing on the upcoming holidays and to consider end-of-year giving. Support Giving Tuesday and find out more: www.givingtuesday.org.au

 

Katherine Raskob

Chief Executive Officer