Yesterday, the Assistant Minister to the Treasurer, the Hon Michael Sukkar MP, announced Dr Gary Johns has been appointed as ACNC Commissioner, for a term of five years.

I welcome the announcement and the clarity and certainty it provides for the ACNC.

Dr Johns will commence his tenure as ACNC Commissioner on Monday 11 December, and the team at the ACNC looks forward to both welcoming him and working with him.

David Locke and I will continue in our positions at the ACNC - I will resume my role as Assistant Commissioner, General Counsel, and David Locke as Assistant Commissioner, Charity Services. It has been a pleasure to ‘fill in’ as Acting Commissioner over the last month.

The Assistant Minister’s media release announcing Dr Johns’ appointment is available here.

Australian charity revenue grows

It was my pleasure to be in Canberra on Wednesday for the launch of the Australian Charities Report 2016 at Parliament House by the Assistant Minister to the Treasurer, the Hon. Michael Sukkar MP.

The report, the fourth of its kind, was produced in partnership with the Centre for Social Impact and the Social Policy Research Centre at the University of New South Wales.

The Australian Charities Report 2016 analyses the annual reporting data from more than 52,000 registered charities, providing invaluable insights into the impact Australia's charity sector has on the community.

In 2016, charities recorded total revenue over $142.8 billion, with the sector spending more than $137.1 billion pursuing their charitable purpose.

Australia's generosity also continued to show through, with more than 2.9 million Australians volunteering for registered charities in 2016, and almost one in two charities operated with no paid staff. We were also generous with our money, donating more than $10.5 billion in 2016.

In addition to the strong volunteer numbers, Australia’s charities employed more than 1.3 million people, which accounts for more than 10 per cent of Australia’s workforce - highlighting the not-for-profit sector as a critical element of Australia’s economy.

The full report and interactive datacube are available to explore at australiancharities.acnc.gov.au

Waubra Foundation decision handed down by Administrative Appeals Tribunal

The Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) handed down its decision in Waubra Foundation v Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission on Monday.

The AAT affirmed the ACNC's decision that the Waubra Foundation was not entitled to be registered as a health promotion charity, or as an entity with a purpose of 'promoting or protecting human rights'.

The Waubra Foundation's registration with the ACNC as a charity with the purpose of advancing health and the purpose of advancing public debate has not been affected by the proceedings.

This marks the first decision by the AAT on the ACNC's legislation, and we appreciate that issues have been clarified by the AAT. This decision provides valuable assistance for future decision-making.

The full decision is now available on the AustLII website.

Changes to DGR announced

Earlier this year, the Commonwealth Government released a discussion paper on potential changes to the deductible gift recipient (DGR) status system. On Tuesday, the Minister for Revenue and Financial Services, the Hon Kelly O’Dwyer MP announced that a number of the proposed changes will proceed.

The release announced that from 1 July 2019, all non-government DGR organisations will be automatically registered as a charity with the ACNC. Many of these organisations are already registered charities, but those that are not will become registered with the ACNC, with a 12-month transitional period to assist current non-charity DGRs with compliance.

Other DGR registers and the Overseas Aid Gift Deduction Scheme will be integrated with the ACNC Charity Register, and duplicative reporting requirements will be abolished.

We will keep charities informed of the impact of the reforms as more information becomes available.

The full media release on the proposed changes is available on the Treasury website.

Regional Risk Assessment launched in Malaysia

In November, Assistant Commissioner David Locke represented the ACNC at the third Counter Terrorism Financing Summit (CTF Summit) in Kuala Lumpur. The conference provided a valuable opportunity to share knowledge to combat money laundering and terrorism financing, particularly in not-for-profit organisations.

The conference also marked the launch of the Regional Not-For-Profit Sector Risk Assessment 2017, which examines the level and nature of terrorism financing risks in not-for-profit organisations from eight countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia, Indonesia and more.

Like the Australian national risk assessment launched by the ACNC and AUSTRAC in August, the regional risk assessment found that the region of Australia, New Zealand and South-East Asia has a medium risk of terrorism financing in not-for-profit organisations.

The assessment identifies the main threats currently facing charities and not-for-profits, and highlights key vulnerabilities that could be exploited to promote terrorism. The regional risk assessment is available on the AUSTRAC website.

David also spoke at a regional summit of regulators of non-profit organisations from across 20 Asia-Pacific countries, organised by the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering (APG). This was a great opportunity to share best practice, and for Australia and our regional partners to build stronger links.

Update to ACNC Review and Appeal policy

There are many decisions of the ACNC that can be the subject of objections or reviews by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal and Federal Court. However, there are some decisions that do not have an objection process (such as withholding information from the ACNC Charity Register).

The Commissioner’s Statement has been updated to reflect this arrangement, and is available on the ACNC website.

Warm regards,

Murray Baird
ACNC Acting Commissioner