Australia's first national charity regulator, the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) is expected to begin in December after the legislation to establish it passed through parliament today.

Chair designate of the ACNC Advisory Board, Robert Fitzgerald heralded the passage of the legislation as a major advance for Australian charities.

"Since the mid 1990s every inquiry, as well as the not-for-profit sector itself has been calling for a specialist, national regulator. Now it is set to become a reality," he said.

"I have every confidence that the new Commission will serve to support and enhance our country's valuable not-for-profit sector. It will also deliver for the Australian community at large."

ACNC Commissioner designate, Susan Pascoe explained that one of the first things the new regulator will deliver will be a register of Australian charities, which will benefit both the broader Australian public and the charitable sector.

"The online ACNC Register will make it possible for people to find basic information about registered charities easily, helping them make informed choices about the charities they choose to support.

"The Register will also be an effective way for charities of all sizes to demonstrate that they are registered and that they have a legitimate charitable purpose," Ms Pascoe said.

Initially only basic information will be available on the ACNC Register, including the name of the charity, its Australian Business Number (ABN), the state or territory it is registered in and a link to its entry on the Australian Business Register (ABR). In time, this information will expand to include financial and governance information.

One of the Commission's key priorities will be to reduce unnecessary regulatory obligations imposed on charities. Ms Pascoe said work to achieve this had already begun and that charities can expect to benefit from ongoing gradual reduction in red tape.

"The ACNC will be a Commission that supports a thriving not-for-profit sector," Ms Pascoe said.

"Making interactions with government more efficient so that charities can get on with their core mission is one of the most important ways we can achieve this."

Already, progress in this area has been very encouraging with recent announcements indicating that the South Australian Government, Commonwealth Grant providers and ASIC are all undertaking work that will help the ACNC reduce duplication and unnecessary regulation for charities.

The South Australian Government will amend its incorporated associations and charitable collections legislation to match ACNC reporting requirements, and authorise charities to collect charitable donations in South Australia, once they have formally registered with the ACNC.

The Commonwealth Grant Guidelines will be amended in several ways that will support red tape reduction for charities. Importantly, one amendment will state that agency staff should not seek information from grant applicants if the information has already been provided to the ACNC.

ASIC and the ACNC will also work together to minimise duplication for registered charities that are corporations. These charities will move from being primarily regulated by ASIC to the ACNC and they will no longer have to pay annual ASIC fees.

Interview opportunities available with:

  • Robert Fitzgerald AM, Chair designate of the ACNC Advisory Board
  • David Locke, Acting Interim Commissioner ACNC Taskforce