Social enterprise Our Community (“where not-for-profits go for help”) has described recommendations designed to slash Australia’s fundraising red tape burden as “a national disgrace”.
The recommendations are contained in a discussion paper from the Charitable Fundraising National Working Group, which comprises bureaucrats in charge of fixing the nation’s disparate fundraising regulations.
The group has been charged with tackling what authorities accept are “unnecessary burdens” caused by inconsistent rules and costly and time-consuming red tape. The issue has been the subject of a national not-for-profit sector-driven campaign dubbed #FixFundraising.
In an open letter to every federal, state and territory minister with carriage for fundraising, Our Community group managing director Denis Moriarty describes the report as “a tawdry exercise in public policy at its worst”.
After more than 20 years of advocating for a better system, most recently alongside members of the Charities Crisis Cabinet, an exasperated Mr Moriarty said the discussion paper failed the country’s 600,000 not-for-profits.
He said he was unapologetic for the letter’s colourful language.
“This report is a national disgrace, delivered at a point in time when jobs are disappearing, the not-for-profit sector is in crisis, having to deliver more services for less money, and the National Cabinet is calling for a major reform agenda to fast-track innovations and solve structural impediments,” the letter says.
It takes aim at the officials who have drawn up the paper and every minister who has had responsibility for fundraising regulations over the past two decades.
“Enough is enough. Ministers should be held accountable for their absolutely woeful bureaucrats dishing this shit up, year after year, and calling it good or reforming public policy. Every state and territory Minister responsible for this issue over the past 20 years should be held to account and also hang their head in shame,” Mr Moriarty says.
Among other changes, the National Working Group has recommended that registered charities should automatically be able to fundraise in all jurisdictions, but recommends states and territories be able to set further conditions.
Mr Moriarty told ministers that the proposed changes were “the weakest possible recommendation that could be made”.
The proposal would allow states to retain “pointless separate provisions”, such as a “non-reporting threshold” in the ACT which kicks in at $50,000 where an identical organisation would meet that threshold in NSW at $15,000.
“It is almost impossible to conceive that there might be any difference between not-for-profit operations in the two jurisdictions that would justify this gap,” he said.
Mr Moriarty said the Working Group should go back to the drawing board and focus on reducing the burdens that it was charged with easing.
He said Justice Connect and other sector advocates had suggested “achievable and effective” policy reforms, but instead, the Working Group had proposed a “halfway house” and “nonsense” provisions.
“It’s an indictment on every senior bureaucrat who has held responsibility for fundraising law for the past 20 years, along with every Minister responsible for such laws,” he said.
“It’s as if each bureaucrat has been deliberately serving up crap to each Minister, in the hopes that they will win themselves an easier life and keeping public servants in meaningless jobs, while they wait out each successive Minister’s tired regime. As a former Deputy Secretary of a government agency, I played my part in advancing and stalling various reform agendas, but I have had enough of this drivel.
“No-one seems to grasp the madness that they are enforcing on the 600,000 Australian not-for-profits and volunteers who are tasked with addressing some of society’s most pressing issues.
“While Rome is burning, with governments failing to act on multiple governance failures, fraud and endemic mega-money laundering at our casinos, we witness 20 years of pointless red tape and micro-management of community groups trying to collect $50 from the public.
“Is there not one Minister responsible for fundraising in Australia that is clever or brave enough to simply instruct one of their bureaucrats to get off their arse and fix fundraising?
“Yes, this submission contains slightly colourful language, but after 20 years it’s time to stop the blank canvasses of dull and lifeless policy and in killing community groups.