The Labor Senators acknowledge the issues of problem
gambling and the evidence of witnesses around concerns for individuals and
families. We will be proposing an amendment to this legislation to ensure that,
where there is a state-wide pre-commitment scheme in place, venues must
continue to have the capability of connecting to that scheme.
The Government's legislation recommits to further
consultation across stakeholders and the Labor Senators strongly support such
consultation and engagement.
The Labor Government's Charities Bill 2013 was to create a
statutory definition of what constitutes a charitable entity. The importance of
the definition is that it guides the ATO as to whether or not an organisation
is eligible for certain tax benefits. The Bill codified existing case law and
explicitly stated that charities are free to critique the policies of political
parties and candidates. The Bill had widespread support in the sector.
There is broad support within the charitable sector for a
statutory definition of charity as very few want to be bogged down in court
cases to decide if they are a charity.
The Government report refers to speeches by Minister for
Social Services Kevin Andrews and Coalition policy to repeal the act and, in
particular, the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, the ACNC.
Witnesses made it clear any debate over the future of the
ACNC should be made separate to the definition of a charity.
Regardless of Government policy in the future regarding the
ACNC, Labor Senators strongly support the definition of charity.
Mr Nathan Macdonald, acting director, Justice Connect
In our view the Charities Act is a step towards certainty and
clarity for those seeking charitable endorsement and goes some way towards
addressing the proliferation of statutory definitions on 'charity'.
We feel the Charities Act represents a piece of policy that
is long overdue, having been considered and recommended by several major
inquiries, including the 2001 charities definition inquiry and, more recently,
the Productivity Commission inquiry in 2010. Consultation on the current
definition was adequate and, while a number of the 200-plus submissions asked
for some degree of tinkering to the Bill, it is fair to say that there was
broad support for a single definition on 'charity' across the Commonwealth,
with the end result being a definition that largely preserves and clarifies the
Mr David Crosbie, CEO, Community Council for Australia:
We recognise, as would everybody who has ever looked at the
legislation and the definition of 'charity', that the current provisions are
woefully inadequate, that they discriminate against small charities who cannot
afford tax lawyers, and they are complex even for the most well-resourced
charity in terms of understanding what is charitable and what is not. It was a
massive step forward to get the level of consensus that was agreed through the
2011 consultations, the 2013 consultations and the 2001 consultations on a new
statutory definition of 'charity' and we, like most of the charitable sector,
celebrated the fact that we had clarity and some sense of being able to plan
our activities based on a clear, concise definition of 'charity' that included
things previously not included like advocacy, Indigenous disadvantage, housing
and disaster relief.
Reverend Tim Costello, chair, Community Council of
Australia and CEO, World Vision Australia:
This new definition is extraordinarily important for all of
us. With the consultations and over 200 submissions made, I have not heard of
anyone in the sector who was troubled by this definition.
Mr Joe Zabar, director Services Sustainability,
The ACNC decision is very different from the statutory
The Labor Senators on this Committee do not share the
majority's view on the appropriateness of the measure proposed in Schedule 5.
This measure would see interest charges applied to certain
debts applying to Austudy payment, fares allowance, Youth Allowance payments to
full-time students and apprentices and ABSTUDY living allowance payments.
The Labor Senators have had regard to the submissions of
organisations that work directly with students, including the Student
Representative Council of the University of Sydney and the Nationals Tertiary
Education Union which highlight the financial stress under which many students
already find themselves, including reference to research which shows that up to
two thirds of tertiary students are already under significant financial
We also note that during the hearings, the Australian Youth
Affairs Coalition argued that this measure is unlikely to make students pay
back their debts on time. They said: “in cases where young people are already
struggling to pay existing debts the additional interest charge is not likely
to serve as an incentive to pay on time”.
The National Tertiary Education Union also argued that this
measure may act as a disincentive to students seeking access to appropriate
support because of fear of punitive debts, and that this may lead to decisions
not to engage in tertiary education.
On the basis of the evidence before the committee, the Labor
Senators consider this measure to be overly punitive on students who are
already under significant financial strain, and we do not consider that it will
achieve the outcomes to which it is directed. On this basis we oppose this
This Bill amends Paid Parental Leave (PPL) legislation to
remove the requirement for employers to administer Government funded parental
leave pay to their eligible long-term employees.
From 1 March, employees will be paid directly by the
Department of Human Services, unless an employer opts in to provide parental
leave pay to its employees and an employee agrees for their employer to pay
The current PPL legislation provides that employers must
administer the paid parental leave for eligible; long-term employees. The
employer role in the scheme is designed to help employers retain their skilled
staff by enabling women to remain connected to work and their careers when they
take time out of the workforce to have a baby or adopt a child. During 2013
election campaign, Labor announced that it would enable businesses with less
than 20 employees to have Centrelink administer their PPL payments to their
employees on an opt-in basis.
The PPL scheme was designed to be a workplace entitlement
rather than a welfare payment. The submission to this inquiry from the ACTU
referred to the Productivity Commission recommendation that employers should
act as the agent for the government and pay its statutory leave on its behalf.
The Commission noted that 'structuring payments in this way would strengthen the
link between employer and employee, which should increase retention rates for
the business (and lead to a higher lifetime employment by women).
The ACTU concurs with the PC that the employer's role in the
delivery of employees' PPL is critical to developing a culture where a parent's
need to take leave to have and care for a baby is connected to their employment
relationship. Requiring employers to pass on the government payments assists
in categorising PPL as a 'workplace entitlement', albeit subsidised to the
minimum wage level. It appears like any other leave entitlement, and in an
ever increasing number of workplaces, is being 'topped up' by employers so that
employee receives paid leave at their normal wage rate paid by the employer.
The evidence supplied by Mr Phillip Brown, Branch Manager,
Parental Payments and Family Research Branch, Department of Social Services
referred to the legislation review of the PPL that is due to be finalised in
the very early part of next year. This review draws from the separate
evaluation process which is currently underway as well as early evaluation
reports which are publicly available.
Mr Brown in giving evidence the evaluation, said:
In broad terms it certainly showed that, overall, while there
were some concerns and misunderstandings between Centrelink and different
employers, over time, as Centrelink mastered the business of working with
employers, and employers, particularly when they had multiple claimants, were
able to adapt as well. So, overall, it is not without concerns and issues
raised by employers—small, medium, large—but I think the processes have been
managed well and they are relatively smooth, notwithstanding the evidence provided
here earlier in the day.
Mr Brown when giving evidence from the evaluation said:
Ease of registering for the PPL scheme', more than half said
it was easier to register with the scheme, so it was a minority but a sizeable
minority found it was difficult. Attitudes towards organising PPL statements, 'It
was easy to organise payments for the PPL scheme', strongly agree or agree was
79 per cent people said they strongly agreed or agreed that it was easy to
organise payments for the PPL scheme through Centrelink.
On the claim made by employer group about the complexity of
effectively maintain the PPL, Mr Brown stated:
The Council of Small Business Australia have raised those
concerns with us consistently, but other evidence and feedback, given either
through the review or the evaluation, or through correspondence to the minister,
is not a uniform view at all.
Labor Senators will be recommending an amendment to Schedule 1 to ensure
that, where there is a state-wide pre-commitment scheme in place, venues must
continue to have the capability of connecting to that scheme.
Labor Senators will be opposing Schedule 1A.
Labor Senators will be opposing Schedule 5.
Labor Senators support an amendment to Schedule 7 to enable businesses
with less than 20 employees to have Centrelink administer their PPL payments to
their employees on an opt-in basis.
Senator Carol Brown Senator
Senator Claire Moore
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