The ACNC is one of the most dangerous pieces of legislation the previous Labor Government devised and one of the reasons many voted for Tony Abbott was his promise to see this nasty little virus wiped off the legislative map.
It is very important for cooler heads to look closely at the structure of what has served the nation very well and without hic-up for all these years.
It has been my lot on two separate occasions now, for two different national charity groups, to develop a set of purposes and aims for those respective charities and then submitting the paper work to the Australian Taxation Office for review.
This is no easy matter. It takes time. A range criteria is required. It is critical to set out very carefully and methodologically the parameters of the charity's activities and there is a clear mandate to follow what might be referred to as the 'rule of law'.
I cannot emphasise enough how important this is (the rule of law) and it is this that is at the very heart, the very centre of the objection to ACNC. It's not obvious nor is it at all clear from a reading of the ACNC documentation, but experience tells me it is at the very nub of its danger.
Let me explain.
The Australian Taxation Office has many responsibilities, one of which is that monies from the public into 'good causes' have a governance and a clarity that demonstrates that those donated monies are spent according to law.
When documentation is sent into the Australian Taxation Office to establish a charity with these lawful exemptions such as tax deductibility of gifts over $2, the exemption of the GST and various other things, the paper work is adjudged on the merits of the paper work submitted.
The charity may be based in Cairns Queensland, but the adjudicating officer may be in Adelaide, Albury, Melbourne, Newcastle ….. It is the rule of law that is central in the determination.
I've been around for 37 years and over a life time in Christian ministry and charity activities and as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years, followed by Life After Cricket ministry, Olympic ministry, all very high profile, the flow on - in networking - is phenomenal. I know people. People know me. People who I've never met know me or know of me. Writing this daily column has provided an additional voice.
Three things I can comment on with accuracy -
First, this entire sector is a close knit community, especially at leadership levels. It's dangerous. It can be destructive. There is as much back stabbing and political manoeuvring in this sector as there is in the corporate sector. But in this sector it's all done in Christian love or good-will. It's deadly.
The Australian Taxation Office model removes these scenarios.
Second, the ACNC would inevitably become ideologically driven. The classic example is the Uniting Church where the evangelicals are way too busy serving evangelically for the souls of men and women to Salvation to be endlessly engaged in meeting after meeting after meeting and what happens, the ideologically driven take key leadership roles. Anyone but anyone aware of these matters recognises exactly what I'm speaking of.
The Australian Taxation Office model removes these ideological considerations at the door (so to speak).
Third, the current system encourages and endorses many small grass roots charities who function on the smell of an oily rag and as long as their public officer and treasurer send in the annual reports and fill in the Australian Taxation Office recommended annual guide, these mum's and dad's charities do magnificent unsung community work for which the nation is the beneficiary. We are the volunteer nation, the envy of the world. The ACNC will inevitably, as sure as night follows day, become a millstone around their necks – it's inevitable because they will need to be seen to be doing stuff.
The Australian Taxation Office model has never placed such a burden upon the citizens who are the volunteers of the nation.
Oh, cry the do-gooders from the ACNC lobby - what about embezzlement of charities? My answer is that this happens in banks, finance, share market, land deals, and in the corporate world with all their multi-million dollar systems to prevent such things. The ACNC do-gooders will not stop the very clever cheat either.
The Australian Taxation Office model is a proven one. It works well. Yes, a lot of the system is mandatorily self governing, this is what our nation is built upon, there are many unspoken expectations in our society. We live by them day by day. The last thing we need now are the do-gooder bureaucrats chasing after those who are actually doing good.
Mr Andrews, remove this virus from us, and please, let us rejoice in another election promise full-filled.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html