Page 4001 - Week 13 - Tuesday, 17 November 2015
This morning I have proposed to the Greens and the government that perhaps we leave off this bill until later in the week with the possibility of perhaps sending it to a committee. Neither of those options will get off.
One of the interesting parts of the bill is that it specifically takes community housing in this bill out of the definition of charities. I understand that it is covered in the rates bill, but what are the implications of taking it out of this bill? I do not think that has been suitably addressed. We have been approached by some of the not-for-profits in that sector who are very concerned about this and the precedent that it has perhaps set.
I am worried by the undue haste that we seem to be showing. I call it our just-in-time legislation. You table it on Thursday one sitting period and you do it in the next sitting period. There has not been a lot of time on this bill. There has not been a lot of time for consultation. Yesterday afternoon I was still meeting with groups that asked for specific amendments to the act. I have had those drafted, but those groups have now come back and said, “Perhaps our understanding of the bill was not as clear and perhaps we do not need the amendments.”
There is certainly a level of uncertainty over the effect of the bill. I do not see the need to pass it today; a couple of extra days would not hurt. And whether or not we need to pass it now, if it could be left to February, it might be even more appropriate given the way that the government, because they have got the numbers, aided and abetted by Mr Rattenbury, say they will table a bill and pass it on the next sitting day. For most community groups, it is almost impossible, in some of those short time frames, to consult with their members. Indeed, some groups would not have had a board meeting between the tabling of this bill and the debate on it today.
There are a number of problems here. The Chief Minister assures me it is all okay. Mr Rattenbury assures me that the meeting tomorrow is just the first step in a long path to work towards harmonisation. But I would suggest to members that we will be back to amend these bills; we will be back to look at the definition of what a charity is and how it works in the ACT. And we will need to look at the consequences of actions. Decisions in court cases in the Northern Territory and WA went one way, while a recent decision in Victoria went the other.
There is uncertainty in this. To say that there is an agreed path forward for this when there is a great deal of uncertainty and when you have got a peak body like the Community Council for Australia saying that this is backward and counterproductive is a warning to us all.
MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo) (12.05): I will be supporting the bill before us today that seeks to protect the integrity of the common understanding of what a charity is, and what they can receive, under the relevant existing ACT legislation relating to tax.
I note that in recent days there have been some issues with the bill raised with my office. As Mr Smyth has outlined, he had some similar approaches. But I have followed up a range of these matters, had further discussions with the Chief Minister and his office, and reflected on both the bill itself and the tabling speech. I am