You may be aware that you can only register as a charity or not-for-profit under the ACNC Act (and receive access to tax concessions and other benefits) if you meet certain requirements, including compliance with governance standards prescribed by regulation.
Standard 3 outlines particular unlawful activities that charities and NFPs must not engage in or promote if they wish to retain their registration. The Federal Government is proposing an amendment to Standard 3 which would broaden its scope to include less serious matters, being acts that can be dealt with as summary offences relating to property, or causing personal injury or harm to an individual.
This change could see charities prevented from participating in peaceful protests - or from supporting other groups doing so - and run the risk of being deregistered and shut down for speaking out. The Human Rights Legal Centre has written that:
“If made, the regulations would discourage charities from promoting and having a presence at common peaceful protests. It would also make it much harder for charities to share their resources with community groups to support their advocacy. Finally, the regulations could introduce unnecessary red tape for virtually every one of Australia’s 59,000 charities, and again, threaten them with deregistration if they fail to comply. [Explainer: ACNC proposed governance standard 3]” https://www.hrlc.org.au/factsheets/2021/6/28/acnc-proposed-governance-standard-3
The proposed changes would give the Charities Commissioner sweeping powers to deregister charities for even the most minor offences, like blocking a footpath while holding a vigil, even if the offence is unintentional.
Charities could even be deregistered if supporters or volunteers engaged in these kinds of activities without the charity’s knowledge.
And they could be deregistered for things they haven’t even done yet but that the Charities Commissioner ‘reasonably believes’ they could do in the future.
This is extraordinary overreach. This will have a chilling effect on the vital work that charities do.
If we speak out now, we still have time to stop these regulations from becoming a reality.
Can you write to your local MP or Liberal Senator calling on them to withdraw these harsh new regulations?
Parliament resumes in two weeks. This means we have two weeks to contact the Federal Government to stop them from implementing these regulations.
An alliance of over 60 well respected charities have come out to condemn these laws and are calling on the Federal Government to stop them. We know Prime Minister Morrison has a lot of important issues to worry about and more important things to do than silence charities who speak out for and represent their communities. Will you add your voice?
Write to your local MP or Liberal Senator today!
It’s very clear these regulations don’t stack up. Just last week the Liberal-led Senate committee that scrutinises regulations like this wrote to Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar outlining their significant concerns with the proposed regulations. Even the current Charities Commissioner, Gary Johns, admitted in Senate Estimates that there’s no evidence suggesting these new regulations are needed. And prominent legal voices have also raised concerns, including the Law Council of Australia and top-tier law firm Arnold Bloch Liebler. The Australian Institute of Company Directors made submissions opposing the proposed regulations.
The Federal Government need to know that the charitable sector know this is a bad idea. That’s where you come in.
Writing an email is quick and easy with the talking points we’ve provided. It doesn’t need to be long; what’s important is that MPs and Senators are hearing from as many voices as possible in the next 14 days.
Charities in Australia have been working tirelessly throughout the pandemic to support vulnerable communities and people in need. Right now the government should be doing everything it can to help charities, not using this moment to crack down on the very things that are needed for a healthy democracy.
Can you take a moment to write to your local MP or Liberal Senator?
Let’s protect our right to advocate for a better future.
Template email from supporters to MP
Dear [insert name],
I’m writing to you with concerns about harsh new regulations on charities proposed by federal Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar.
If these regulations go ahead it’ll severely restrict the ability of charities to do their important work.
Charities are already heavily regulated. They need less red tape, not more.
Charities have been working tirelessly to support communities throughout the pandemic, and have been vital in securing the social changes that we all take for granted today. Right now the government should be doing everything they can to support charities, not cracking down on them.
I ask that you do everything you can to stop these regulations from being enacted in parliament.