CCA News - Autumn 2018
I left our AGM and discussions with Parliamentarians last Thursday as I always do when committed leaders from our sector get together and talk about the Australia we want – and what we can do to get there - energised, determined and optimistic that when we pull together as a sector we can shift the things that need to be shifted to realise the type of society we want to live in.
We have a way to go. Summed up by CCA Board Director, Paul Ronalds, Australia is becoming a harsher, meaner society day by day. We need to find a way to take a look at what we are becoming - what we accept - and where that sits with ‘Australian’ values.
This is precisely why CCA began work three years ago on the Australia we want. Its three pillars have never been more relevant:
- A vision: In 2015, charity leaders agreed on a set of core values they felt should be prioritised in the Australia we want: just, fair, safe, inclusive, equality of opportunity, united, authentic, creative, confident, courageous, optimistic, generous, kind, and compassionate.
- A mirror: Putting in place measures drawing on key statistics from the OECD, ABS and the AIHW for each of these values. CCA worked with the Centre of Social Impact to then measure Australia’s and each state and territory’s performance against those measures. For instance –' just' was measured by incarceration rates; 'fair' was measured by income inequality; 'safe' by feeling safe walking alone at night; etc. The resulting Australia We Want first report generated significant discussion about the kind of Australia we want to live in.
- Solutions: Australia we want forums focus on solutions, and advancing the sector’s role, value and contribution to making them happen.
The Australia we want is our strategic plan. It is also a growing movement – I hope you will join in. Fundamentally, it challenges us to find the energy and capacity to not only do the good work we do, but to find a way to rise above our own organisation’s pain - to lift our sights to changing the very bedrock of our social landscape.
CCA’s agenda works every day on enabling that change – working on the big policy levers that are at the heart of shifting that bedrock. If we are strangled in red tape; have our voices silenced or compromised; do not have access to funding and capital; are encouraged to compete when we should be collaborating; are not partners in developing and implementing social policy; or are dismissed, shut out or trampled on by vested interests when it comes to shaping the national agenda, we cannot realise the Australia we want.
Updates on our work are outlined below. Lastly, I hope you enjoy my most recent article in Pro Bono News, It’s not just the economy – stupid! I take a look across the ditch where, in handing down its most important government policy document – its Budget - the Ardern Government is committing to measures of success that go beyond economic metrics to set measurable targets that reflect the society they want to become. These look a lot like those of the Australia we want…
Thank you for your interest in our work. We are stronger together, and if you would like to discuss our standing invitation to join the outstanding leaders that are the CCA membership, please contact Deb or me.
CEO Community Council for Australia
CCA Events and Policy News
CCA AGM, member discussion with Parliamentarians, supporting our sector
CCA members joined us at Parliament House on 24 May for our AGM and discussions with Senator Rachel Siewert and Shadow Minister for Charities and Not for profits, Andrew Leigh MP. Discussion covered a lot of ground. Notably, electoral reform, and legal advice within our membership that suggests the changes to the Electoral Act effective in March will likely affect tens of thousands of charities. Almost every charity that undertakes issues advocacy will be caught by the reporting threshold and onerous reporting requirements (likely to include staff time). The lack of clarity and guidance from the AEC is astounding - and raised through Estimates. AEC are still saying the changes will have limited impact on charities despite our legal advice to the contrary. More work to do.
Andrew Leigh spoke to a positive agenda to build momentum to #fixfundraising and harmonise the dog’s breakfast of fundraising regulations around Australia; reduce red tape and see the ACNC become a one-stop shop working well with states and territories; and to strengthen civic engagement and build social capital. Senator Siewert prioritised a policy platform supportive of the sector. Put to both were two policy asks that would inform and strengthen national policy-making and reform:
- A commitment to return an Office for the Not for Profit Sector to a central agency - PM & C - to oversee NFP policy making and implementation across government; particularly to improve the way government works with the sector through tendering and contracting processes.
- A commitment to fund ABS Satellite Accounts on the NFP sector (last done in 2012/13). These would provide the sort of robust data that underpins policy making for other sectors valued by government, such as small business.
A special acknowledgment was made at our AGM to Karen Mahlab AM to thank her for her leadership and the work of Pro Bono Australia in providing a vital media service and voice for the sector. Thank you, Karen and team!
Read Chair, Tim Costello and CEO, David Crosbie’s reports and CCA’s Annual Financial Statements here.
Red tape and threat to Advocacy
CCA says Hands Off Our Charities in electoral reform and foreign influence bills
There are fires burning on a number of fronts as the Government prosecutes its suite of foreign interference legislation and further changes to the Electoral Act. CCA and a host of leading charity leaders voice their concerns in this #HandsOffOurCharities coalition video:
The proposed legislation will impose new funding and activity restrictions and reporting regimes on charities potentially affecting thousands of charities, their donors and their philanthropic partners – and the work we do for our communities. ACNC submissions to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters (electoral reform) and the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Security and Intelligence (Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme) were telling in their analysis of the onerous burden on charities and concluded the legislation will diminish charities’ capacity to serve their missions and inhibit advocacy.
Giving evidence to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters (JSCEM) and to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Security and Intelligence (PJCSIC), CCA said charities are already well-regulated, are already prohibited from partisan political activity, should not be drowned in new reams of red tape, and charities role and contribution to public policy debate should be facilitated not hindered.
Electoral Legislation Amendment (Funding and Disclosure Reform)
CCA said that the release of the Joint Standing Committee in Electoral Matters (JSCEM) report into political donations acknowledges the problems and is a step in the right direction, but it still does not clearly identify how a newly drafted Bill will ensure charities can speak up for their causes or their communities without being labelled political actors. Read our Media Release here.
The issues are well analysed and explained by Krystian Seibert in the Conversation: New electoral law could still hobble charities. Bill Shorten’s comments post the release of the report - indicating that Labor will not support ‘anything that punishes the charity and not-for-profit sector’ and that charities ‘should be able to participate in the policy-making process without being treated as if they have a political intent’ - are welcome. As was Centre Alliance (formerly NXT) Senator Patrick’s tabling of the #HandsOffOurCharities Open Letter in Parliament. Greens Senator Rachel Siewert and Shadow Minister for Charities and Not-for-profits, Andrew Leigh expressed strong support at the #HandsOffOurCharities parliamentary event on 28 March, and again at the CCA AGM. It is clear that the Bill will have to be re-drafted; it is also clear that work remains to ensure the voice and the work of charities is not compromised.
The three asks from a CCA perspective are:
- Time to consult and clarify the impact of the revised electoral reform Bill before it goes to Parliament - a Regulatory Impact Statement process and proper consultation
- Ensure charities can continue to pursue their charitable purpose through advocacy without additional compliance or restrictions
- Clarifying the definition of political campaigning for: the electoral reform Bill, AEC declarations, and the Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Bill. All should use the definition applied by the ACNC.
Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme Bill
The Foreign Influence Transparency Scheme legislation is cause for deep concern, capturing almost any kind of activity of any Australian individual or group who has some kind of relationship with someone overseas and is trying to seek any kind of policy improvement in Australia. CCA believes that while there may be a need to better identify foreign agents in Australia, onerous registrations schemes targeting charities pursuing their charitable purpose is, at best, legislative overreach. The Australian legislation draws on US legislation from the 1930s and 1960s – CCA CEO David Crosbie explains why it is not fit for purpose in Pro Bono News, 1938, Foreign Agents and Government Paranoia.
CCA provided a submission to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security, appeared before the Committee and met with the Attorney General’s office and the bureaucrats responsible for drafting the legislation. We are awaiting the report form PJCIS – due soon.
Read CCA’s submission and a transcript of evidence to PJCIS here.
Review of the ACNC Legislation
CCA’s submission to the legislated five-year Review of the ACNC Acts calls for building upon the foundation and achievements of the ACNC in its first five years. Fundamental to this is a continuation of the strong working relationship the ACNC has established with the sector. Our submission highlights those achievements and points to areas for improvement and further work. Recommendations include review of the secrecy provisions to allow the ACNC to share more information on enforcement activity and the outcome of investigations; work to see the ACNC Charities Passport adopted more widely across governments and other regulatory bodies; carefully staged application of the Australian Consumer Law to fundraising activity; a transparent and merit-based process for the appointment of the Commissioner and Advisory Board and enhancements to the role of the Advisory Board; and a response to the ACNC’s own submission.
CCA has met with Patrick McClure (heading the Review) and also supports a Supplementary Submission from Justice Connect. This submission was invited by the Review in response to the level of concern raised around fundraising regulation – and the ACCC’s submission explicitly not supporting use of the Australian Consumer Law to replace state and territory fundraising regulation. CCA joins Philanthropy Australia, the Governance Institute of Australia and the Public Fundraising Regulatory Association in endorsing Justice Connect’s supplementary submission, which reiterates the case to #fixfundraising by replacing the current ineffective dog’s breakfast of fundraising regulation with well-considered amendments to Australian Consumer Law.
Senate Select Committee into the Political Influence of Donations
CCA has provided a supplementary submission to the Senate Select Committee into the Political Influence of Donations. We argue that political influence in Australia is skewed toward well-resourced vested interests seeking economic gain, with much of that influence wielded outside of political donation and disclosure regimes. Charities contribute to national policy from a place of relative disadvantage and are already well regulated in relation to what they can and cannot do in regard to exerting political influence. Most importantly charities can only advocate to progress their charitable purpose and serve their communities – and Australia is a better place when they do.
CCA’s submission, supplementary submission and a transcript of evidence given to the Senate Select Committee is available here.
Creating the Australia we want
Later this year CCA will release the second Australia We Want report – working with the Centre for Social Impact to chart Australia’s performance toward (or away from) the just, fair, safe, inclusive, equal of opportunity, authentic, optimistic, creative, courageous, kind, generous, compassionate, confident and united Australia envisioned by charity leaders – the Australia we want. Our AusWeWant work is not just about reporting, but about solutions, action, and the value of our sector in making them happen. It was good to see the report from Review into Achieving Educational Excellence in Australian Schools emphasise the importance of involving and partnering with parents, carers, families and communities to better support the learning, aspirations and futures of our children – key recommendations from our AusWeWant solutions work and CCA’s submission to the Review. If we are to create the Australia we want, education must be everyone’s business. This will be the theme of the first of our national campaigns to support the AusWeWant. Stay tuned!
Improving the way we handle and learn from complaints
CCA joined a group of eleven national peak bodies to launch a Model Policy to improve how charities handle and learn from complaints. The Model Policy and Model Procedure are intended to provide guidance to organisations on the key principles and concepts of an effective complaint management system to help ensure that complaints are handled confidentially and safely, enhancing community trust and confidence in the work of charities. Ensuring people in need – particularly those in vulnerable circumstances – have a safe and confidential avenue to raise complaints, is critical to good governance of the sector and minimisation of harm to the beneficiaries of charitable services and others engaged with charities. Our thanks to Sue-Anne Wallace AM, the former chair of the Australian Council for International Development Code of Conduct Committee, for driving this work.
Impact Investing CEO Forums
CCA has completed our series of CEO Forums on Impact Investing. Our thanks to Life Without Barriers for stepping up in sector leadership and stewardship to make these forums possible, and to PwC Australia for hosting us in Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane. We have had valuable discussions in every city with a range of themes emerging.
David’s article in Pro Bono News, Diversifying income – but not alone, provides sector context for the forums. We have benefitted from the experience, perspective and expertise of our panellists from Social Ventures Australia, Social Outcomes, Koda Capital, NAB, Life Without Barriers and Hutt Street Centre – and the issues raised by charity CEOs from across the depth and breadth of our sector. We look forward to releasing a report that will support strategic thinking within our sector and CCA advocacy work related to impact investing.
The Budget – Beyond Economic Units, Pro Bono News, 10 May, David writes that the 2018 federal budget is mostly about winning a contest and getting re-elected…
CCA: Why advocacy is a must for Not-for-profits, Our Community Matters, David talks about why advocacy matters in Our Community Matters.
The Power of Advocacy, a clear and succinct report from Philanthropy Australia outlining the case for philanthropy to support advocacy by charities. A valuable and timely resource well worth sharing within your organisation and with your stakeholders.
The Charities sector is stronger when in works together, Pro Bono News, 5 Feb. An excellent article by CEO of Save the Children and CCA Board Director, Paul Ronalds on collaboration for impact.
Time to party? Pro Bono News, 12 April. David Crosbie writes that attacks on charitable advocacy may compel some charities to form their own political parties.
CCA welcomes most of the recommendations flowing from the Productivity Commission’s Report on Introducing Competition and Informed User Choice into Human Services. It is clearly focused on government reform and we hope that this report (unlike too many reform reports before it) will not be consigned to gather dust on the bookshelves of those currently managing the tendering and contracting of human services…
The ACNC Compliance Report for 2017 not only reveals the often unheralded good work of the ACNC last year in resolving over 1000 complaints, but also has some interesting case studies and findings including the following: Of the concerns sent onto the Compliance team to assess, the most common risk category was Governance Standard 5 – duties of responsible persons. This includes concerns such as financial mismanagement, and failure to apply due care and diligence or act in the best interests of the charity.
Advisory Board warns there is no need to change ACNC legislation, Pro Bono News, 9 Feb. ACNC Advisory Board submission to the ACNC Review sees no change necessary to the ACNC objects.
The UN special rapporteur publicly criticises the current Australian Government’s behaviour towards charities. Read a summary and download the report from the Human Rights Law Centre release.
Our Community, Save the Children and Moores have released a Child Safety Toolkit. It incorporates recommendations from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse; compares the rules in different states and territories; includes a compliance checklist; and provides draft policies for organisations to use.
Our Community House, an initiative from Our Community with the support of social impact investors and philanthropists Carol and Alan Schwartz, is looking to open its doors in Melbourne in late 2018. It aims to provide a revolutionary and flexible working space where NFPs, social enterprises, peak bodies, government agencies and socially minded businesses co-locate and work alongside academics, data scientists and communications professionals.
Our work is made possible by our members. We encourage you to join us. If you would like to support a strong, independent voice that can speak up on issues that affect the future of our sector, please contact Deb on 02 6198 3435, Deborahs@communitycouncil.com.au
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