Implications for charities and Minister Andrews’ plans for consultation
The Charities Act 2013 will take effect on 1 January 2014.
- The Charities Act 2013 defines charity and charitable purpose for the purposes of all Commonwealth legislation where prior to the Act commencing the common law was used to define charity and charitable purpose.
- This means that any new charities seeking endorsement as a charity post 1 January 2014 will be assessed using the new statutory definition.
- It is important to note that Minister Andrews proposed an amendment in the spring sittings of the parliament to delay the commencement of the Act (by nine months to 1 September 2014) as part of the Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2013.
- The amendment to delay the commencement of Charities Act was designed to allow for the Government to consult with the sector on a range of issues including abolishing the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) and establishing a Centre for Excellence and a possible national register of charities. The delay would have allowed the Government to work holistically with civil society, consulting a range of stakeholders, including charity law specialists ahead of the Charities Act commencing.
- Given the Social Services and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2013 did not pass the parliament, the Charities Act 2013 will commence on 1 January 2014. However, it should be noted that the Government intends to consult on the establishment of a new National Centre for Excellence and associated issues including the future of the Charities Act 2013 in February 2014 with details of the consultation to be made available on the Department of Social Services website at the end of January.
- The outcomes of the consultation process will inform the future direction of legislative frameworks such as the Charities Act 2013 which may result in amendment or repeal of existing legislation and therefore may impact eligibility.