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ECPR 50th Anniversary Fund

Managing Uncertainty: The Changing Regulatory Regime of Not-For-Profit Organisations in Australia and Questions of 'Over' or 'Under' Regulation?

Civil Society
Political Economy
Social Welfare
Michael Johnson
University of New South Wales
Michael Johnson
University of New South Wales

The regulation of the over 600,000 Australian not-for-profits delivering social and economic programs at home and abroad in Australia has undergone a process of fundamental change since 2010. An increase in regulation has been accelerated by governments expenditure cuts, privatisation and programmatic failures as well as governance and performance inadequacies by NFP's. Changes driven by Neo-liberalism leading to NFP's (with for profits) delivering a much greater share of Australian welfare services at home and abroad. The completion of Productivity Commission research report into the not-for profit (NFP) sector of the economy in 2010; the Rudd Inquiry into development assistance 'effectiveness' and the subsequent establishment of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC)
in 2012 has driven the process. The ACNC has carried out reviews of the corporations laws covering NFP's and the measures regulating tax deductions given in return for taxpayers 'giving' that focussed attention on the complex, multi-layered regulations of NFP's in Australia and led to further reforms. The building of these new regulatory arrangements was indicated as necessary in large parts of the NFP sector in Australia that were not well regulated, but others, like the larger accredited NFP's delivering aid programs were already heavily regulated by multiple overlapping regulatory agencies in Australia. The economic consequences of the new regulatory conditions have been unnecessary administrative and regulatory costs for larger regulated NFP's and lower program quality standards for the unregulated sector. The recent appointment of a new Commissioner, Dr Gary Banks to the ACNC has led to an announcement of a new review of measures to control the advocacy and political activities of NFP's and potentially to an intervention that will weaken the voice of NFP's concerned with social welfare inside and outside Australia. A situation that this paper suggests will do little to reduce the high level of regulatory uncertainty currently present in the sector.
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