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Coalition is keeping charities “in the dark”: Labor

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The Coalition government is costing charities millions of dollars a year due to its inability to address Australia’s outdated fundraising laws, Labor said.

Labor is condemning the current government’s policies and its tendency to leave charities “in the dark” – specifically, due to the silence from Minister Zed Seselja over the recent charity report and the speculation across the wider sector.

In a joint statement, Shadow Minister for Charities and Not-for-profits, Andrew Leigh, and the Chair of the Select Committee on Charity Fundraising in the 21st Century, Catryna Bilyk, said the Coalition was failing charities.

“Australia lacks uniform national fundraising laws,” the statement said.

“Charities who raise money online are placed in the invidious position of either spending a week doing the paperwork to register in every state and territory, or just registering locally, and hoping they don’t get caught.”

Leigh said these “outdated” fundraising laws put charities across the nation at a “systematic risk” of failure. He pointed out a similar pattern in Britain, which saw the downfall of trust in the charity and not-for-profit sector.

He also pointed the finger at the “Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison” government and the six charity ministers that served under them “to think the status quo is OK”.

“While former Minister [Michael] Sukkar was marshalling votes for Peter Dutton in the Liberal playroom, Australia’s charity fundraising were counting the dollars they were wasting keeping up with out of date fundraising laws.”

Charities have called for a reform of fundraising laws for decades, particularly as red tape often results in unavoidable consequences, like heavy fines. Labor said this battle began on May 31, when Sukkar received the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission’s report into the sector.

Labor then called on the Minister to release the report to inform charities on the current state of the sector – but it took two months for it to be released.

It has now been five months since Sukkar received the report and charities are yet to hear from new Minister, Zed Seselja, to respond. Leigh pointed out that with the reporting burden estimated at $15 million annually, it equates to a slug on charities of over $6 million since the Coalition got the report.

“Like his five predecessors, Senator Seselja is out of touch with the charities that Australians trust. He needs to end the ongoing delays that are doing real damage to one of the most trusted sectors in the country,” the statement read.

“Labor urges the Coalition to fix charitable fundraising before money is drained away from our nation’s charities.”

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