Media Release: The ACNC - Are we there yet?

On Friday July 6, 2012 the Assistant Treasurer the Hon. David Bradbury MP and the Minister for Social Inclusion the Hon. Mark Butler MP released the second exposure draft of the legislation to establish the first independent regulator for the charity and not-for-profit sector in Australia, the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC). With the legislation referred to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Economics for inquiry, over 65 submissions received and two days of public hearings now complete, CCA’s CEO David Crosbie comments on the journey so far…

It has been a long time coming – the independent regulator for the NFP sector is almost here – but it has been a rather potholed journey.

The first time we got sidetracked was the battle to have the regulator operate independently from the ATO. And what a battle that was.  It took all the skills of our CCA Chair and many key leaders across our sector to finally win not only a commitment to independence but also a significant new budget allocation.  The then Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten told me it had been quite a tough battle both through Cabinet and the Expenditure Review Committee process.

Next came a discussion paper from Treasury which could be described in many terms, but certainly not as re-assuring or supportive of the sector.  Some wanted to turn around and go back, but of course the idea of going back to the dog’s breakfast of regulations and compliance driven by Treasury gatekeeping soon had people facing the front again.  Many submissions, discussions and consultations later, the first Exposure Draft Bills were provided to CCA for comment, and comment we did as some of the provisions seemed, at best, to be ill conceived.

While the initial documents from Treasury made the journey unbearable, the newly established ACNC Task Force consultations and Implementation Reports gave us the cushioning we needed to keep going.  In fact, I would urge anyone concerned about the way the ACNC will operate to take the time to look at the Implementation Report, something many people who gave evidence to the latest Economics Committee Inquiry had not bothered to do.

Over the last couple of weeks the Bills to establish the ACNC have been the subject of much discussion, submissions and public hearings.  At times I think some people have confused enabling legislation (as outlined in the Bills) with operating guidelines (as outlined in the Implementation Report).  Despite some of the scaremongering, we need to remember that all regulators operate within a framework of actions, not just laws (we would live in a very different world if black letter law drove all our behavior – but that is another discussion.)

CCA raised a number of concerns and areas where we thought the Bills could be improved, but also pushed that the ACNC was a long overdue reform that could drive real reductions in red-tape and positive changes in the relationship between governments and the sector.

We now await the report from the Inquiry Committee and the next version of the ACNC establishment bills – both of which are expected in the next couple of weeks. CCA has been assured by the Minister’s office, Treasury officials and the Chair of the Economics Committee that our concerns are being taken on board and we will find comfort in both the recommendations of the Committee and the final bills to be introduced into parliament.

I feel like a kid squashed between my brothers in the back of my parent’s car, having spent most of our long and uncomfortable journey negotiating the rules that will apply when we finally arrive at the beach.  I can hardly wait to make a splash …

If you have any questions or would like more information about the ACNC bills, the inquiry or what to expect going forward, please contact CCA.


Read CCA’s Submission to the Inquiry
Read the Hansard Transcripts from the public hearings

Read David Crosbie’s latest opinion piece on the ACNC in Pro Bono News
Subscribe to ACNC updates via the ACNC Taskforce website