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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 4 Hansard (1 April) . . Page.. 1127 ..

Clause 46, as amended, agreed to.

Remainder of the bill, by leave, taken as a whole and agreed to.

Bill, as amended, agreed to.

Charitable Collections Bill 2003

Debate resumed from 6 March 2003, on motion by Mr Wood:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MR CORNWELL (11.40): This is an important piece of legislation. No week goes by in this territory without a charity trying to collect money. It is reasonably big business, and I suspect it is a much bigger business than we recognise. This legislation will give us a better and clearer understanding of the size of this business.

I have put questions on the notice paper. That is why I say that whilst it is a reasonably sized business it is probably bigger than the information I have indicates. For example, in 2001, $487,000 was collected by charities in the ACT. In 2002, up to 30 June-that is, halfway through the year-the figure was $220,000. Clearly, we are dealing with considerable amounts of money.

There are probably quite a few jobs in the charity field. But I was concerned principally about accountability for money raised. In my question 252 to the Attorney-General, which was answered on 12 September last year, I specifically asked whether charitable collections were audited. Mr Stanhope responded that the matter was under consideration as a result of a review of national competition policy. I am pleased to say this legislation provides for an audit. This is a step in the right direction. People who generously give money, and sometimes goods, deserve to have some method of ascertaining that the money has been spent as they would hope. This legislation will assist them in doing that.

The bill follows recommendations of the national competition policy review. It will improve management and administration, ensure proper record keeping and auditing, and ensure public access to information about collections for charities. I understand-the minister may correct me if I am wrong-that the public will be able to access the information on the Internet. I am not suggesting that they will, but that is a step in the right direction. Certainly, the information will be accessible for the public to peruse if they so wish.

Collections will require a five-year licence. That is a more sensible move than an annual licence. It will cut down on paperwork. Collectors must display an identification tag. Collectors for most of the major charities do this, but on occasions you may have a few doubts about people who come to your door. The bill provides more clarity for donors.

The bill also contains penalties for bogus collections. I understand that money collected can be spent outside the ACT. In that respect, this legislation is very similar to the New South Wales Charitable Fundraising Act, and therefore it will assist organisations that collect in both this territory and the adjoining state.

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