Government begins stripping back NFP reforms

The Federal Government has begun to move on its pre-election promise to strip back the reforms initiated by the previous government.

The Social Services Minister, the Hon Kevin Andrews MP, has announced plans for the creation of a Centre for Excellence to replace the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC). The Social Services Minister noted in an address to the National Disability Services CEO Conference that the Centre of Excellence would act as an advocate for the sector, and provide education, training and development opportunities for the sector. Ownership of the Centre of Excellence would also be transferred to the sector in due course.

The Federal Government has indicated that the legislation to repeal the ACNC would likely be introduced into parliament next year, and it has also noted that it will consider what interim measures are available to it, including consulting with the sector on these reforms, in order to begin winding down the ACNC’s functions and operations.

The announcement of the abolition of the ACNC follows on from the recent introduction into parliament of the Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2013 (the Social Services Bill) which put forward, among many other changes, a delay to the introduction of the new charity definition by nine months to 1 September 2014 to enable further consultation, and further amendments to the ACNC. The Social Services Bill has been referred to the Senate Standing Committee on Community Affairs; however, the Committee has only been given until 12 December to report, thereby limiting the opportunity for broader consultation.

The Social Services Minister has also advised that the government will re-establish the Prime Minister’s Community Business Partnership to encourage a culture of philanthropy and giving in Australia, and that the government is also looking at examining longer-term funding agreements to deliver greater security and certainty to NFPs.

The Federal Government has cited the previous government’s reform agenda as placing further compliance and regulatory burdens on the NFP sector, and also asserted that the creation of the ACNC simply extends the arm of government into the civil sector. The sector, itself, however, has spoken differently about the role of centralised regulation for the sector. Indeed, there have been almost 20 years of reviews with common recommendations supported by the sector suggesting benefits for the sector from a central regulator.

Further information about the Federal Government’s position can be found in the speech of the Hon Kevin Andrews MP, and further information on the Social Service Bill can be found on the Australian Parliament House website.

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