Australian Politics International Uncategorized

People in Need: Australian NFPs, Charities and her People

Just one small action can change a life, never doubt that truth.

After a day traversing busy city streets, after experiencing noises that could only be emitted from the ever devouring beast of daily life and its destruction upon human sanity, encompassing all life forces within its bounds, I finally found respite in a dingy darkly lit food hall, still humming with the lingering stench of past diners and their intense desires for the excessive speed of their existences.

Seated amongst a sea of half eaten meals floating amidst a chaos of cutlery, a young boy catches my eye. As I surreptitiously look his way, I notice that he is watching a young couple about to leave their table. As they do, this teenage boy quickly slips into one of their seats and begins eating their leftovers like a man half starved. I order a sandwich with chips as a side dish, all the while transfixed by this desperate young man. He was moving closer to the table I was seated at and I noticed that he was not the only person seeking sustenance during that post-peak lunch hour, there were many young people hopping tables in search of a meal, possibly the first for the week.

Many stall owners were ushering them away as they caught sight of these hungry young people, preferring to scrape the leftover food stuffs into a bin than feed the hungry. As the young man I first noticed neared my table, the side dish of chips that I had ordered, I left on the table and I walked away. I had bought the chips with the young man in mind but I instinctively knew that if I alerted him to the chips, then I might harm his pride, he might think it charity.

Now the above true story might be confusing for some people to absorb due to my reference to the fact, that a starving person eating the scraps from another’s plate might feel shame at an act of charity. I did not view what I did as an act of charity, what I did was help another human being in a time of personal crisis without alerting him to my action.

In times of crisis, it becomes harder for many to ask for help and for some, charitable acts can sting their pride.

Just because someone is living on the streets or in their car, sleeping under newspapers, cardboard, doorways and railway tunnels and bridges, does not mean that these people are not human. It does not mean that they do not feel the same things that others might, what it means is that we, as human beings, should, no matter the circumstances, help our fellow human beings and many people do.

Leading Seaman Combat Systems Operator Aisling Speight gets cosy on her cardboard bed to sleep under the stars in support of ‘Sleep Out Shoalhaven’.

Some people might pass comments such as; ‘try doing that every night’ or ‘they don’t know what its like, this is just publicity for them,’ but what is actually happening when people from nice homes, good backgrounds, comfy lives give up even one night a year to share the streets with you, they are showing their solidarity with their fellow human beings. They are saying that there are those who do care about you.

Many Australians at one time or another have experienced atleast one significant personal crisis that has left them destitute in some way. On the whole, most Australians hearts are as big as they get, they give until it hurts and do shed a tear for those they want to help but can’t. Sometimes the weight of need can debilitate and those wanting to assist others don’t know where to start.

It takes just one step, just one thing to make a world of difference to many.

Australia has many organisations that assist people in need and whilst for the most part their funding arrives through charitable donations from the public, the government of Australia also provides funding for many charitable organisations, religious or not.

Mathew Harding: Distinguishing Government from Charity in Australian Law.

Mathew Harding’s paper: “Distinguishing Government from Charity in Australian Law (Source)” in the ‘Sydney Law Review’ opens with a chilling truth; “Government and charity are in the same business, they are functionally similar (Source).” Harding also points out that government is characterised by administration whereas charity is characterised by voluntarism (Source). What this means is that charities, although a business, maintains the ability to function mostly through those who volunteer their time, donate their old clothing and food amongst other human necessities, and of course money.

Charities remain funded by personal donations, philanthropic donations and government funding. Government, also a business, functions by managing the affairs and requirements of a group, or groups of people. Donations from the public and philanthropy are actions by those who do not require anything in return, however, government funding does.

Mr Dick Smith donates all profits to charity in Australia.

Government officials are elected to office in a representative democracy that is still bound by a constitutional monarchy that contains no written laws or rules (Source)”, so when someone refers to the ‘unwritten rules’ it might just be Australia’s attachment to the British constitutional monarchy they are referring to. Australian politicians are now paid handsomely for their time whereas most charitable organisations provide their services for free. At one time those elected to serve the Australian people through governmental positions in Australia, performed this duty freely, it was a prestige position or calling (Source). No wage was supplied because it was a time where only nobility could hold office, a time that 21st century Australia is being once more circumvolved towards by its latest government, known as ‘Abbottism: 2013-2014’.

Drawing a distinction between government and charity has, over the past 30 or so years, become both increasingly difficult and increasingly important, owing to profound changes in the relationship between the charity sector and the State. One change has taken the form of a growing reliance by parts of the charity sector on government funding, accompanied by an increasing use of agreements under which funding depends on certain outcomes being achieved, and a corresponding decrease in direct grants from government (Source: Pp. 560).”
Approximately 1/3rd of not-for-profit revenue comes from the government, with the sector securing over $100 billion a year (Source).”

Australia’s NFP sector is very large, it is made up of around 600000 organisations. Of these, 59000 are economically significant because they employ staff or access tax concessions. As at 2006–07, these economically significant NFP organisations employed 889000 staff (around eight per cent of total employment) and contributed approximately $43 billion to the nation’s gross domestic product(Source).

The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (Repeal) (No. 1) Bill 2014

A more collaborative and productive relationship with the NFP sector was secured during 2010 by the Labor government.

This relationship was to see an increased role for the sector, both in providing social services and in facilitating greater social participation (Source). As a means to the development of the relationship, the Labor Government, amongst other things requested the following:

  • appointed a Parliamentary Secretary for Social Inclusion and the Voluntary Sector
  • removed ‘gag’ clauses in government contracts with the sector which threatened to cut off government funding and grants where organisations were openly critical in the media of government policy
  • commissioned the Productivity Commission to develop a tool to measure the direct and indirect contributions of the sector to the economy and identify impediments to the sector’s development and
  • negotiated a National Compact with the NFP sector.(Source).”
  • 1.1 On 27 March, 2014, the Senate referred the provisions of the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (Repeal) (No. 1) Bill 2014 (the bill) to the Senate Economics Legislation Committee for inquiry and report by 16 June 2014. (Source) (Source)”

    1.2 The Bill would repeal the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Act 2012 (the Act), thereby abolishing the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (the ACNC) (Source) (Source)”

    The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Act (ACNC) 2012 was established by Labor.

    While the introduction of the ACNC has generated mixed reactions, it can, never the less, be viewed as essential because it recognises the unique and distinctive role that charities and NFP organisations play in Australia. For this reason, it is surprising to see the Abbott Government’s move to scrap the regulator without formal consultation with the sector. So why would Tony Abbott want to circumvent political decorum and dismantle all the good that Labor brought about?

    It’s the ‘gag’ clause, and the LNP also want to impose thought bubble regulations and conditions upon funding to NFPs and other charitable organisations.

    If a charitable organisation has the ability to provide an unstated governmental purpose, it might muddy the waters and allow government a foothold into their charitable business for its own purposes. “With the right interpretive tools, it appears to be possible to draw an analytic distinction between government and charity when considering the purposes of a gift for which charitable status is sought (Source)”.

    The people are angry

    The people of Australia donate their time, money, and other needs to charitable organisations without delivering a list of demands in their place. The Abbott government is seeking to repeal the ACNC bought in by Labor, legislation that provides charitable organisations the freedom and ability to assist others without having to report back to government at every turn.

    Many people are angry at these organisations because they feel that they are not really there to help them anymore, but are in fact there to spy on them for government in return for assistance.

    This mood sweeping across the country is just as dangerous as Tony Abbott’s $7 co payment to see a doctor. Many people will not go to a doctor, buy their scripts or call an ambulance which will only take them to a hospital emergency centre also charging Tony Abbott’s $7 co payment (Tony Abbott threatened that eventuality should emergency departments become to busy) (Source). Many homeless and needy will not seek assistance from organisations they feel are spying on them, making their situations worse (Source).

    However, just like the co-payment, Tony Abbott’s repeal of the ACNC is not yet in effect and the Labor party legislation still stands. Meaning that NFPs and other Charities are not yet required to provide government agencies information about people in need. This is not say that some charitable organisations do not report to the department of Human Services, formerly known as Centrelink, as an anon person has informed me that some do (Anon. 26 Aug 2014). As for me, personal experience trumps government announcements.

    Most of these organisations do not want to act as government operatives, trading food and clothing for information about who they are helping, but with the Abbott governments attempts to repeal the ACNC of 2012, the Liberal National Party is seeking to alter the gag clause that is so important for charities and NFPs to be able to assist those in need without interference by an overseer. Trust is a big issue when someone is seeking assistance, charities and NFPs understand this.

    The following quote is the concluding paragraph of the Bill by Labor requesting the Liberal party not to repeal the ACNC which took 10 years to prepare (Source).

    “Repealing the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Act 2012 (Cth) and abolishing the ACNC will unwind ten years of reviews and reforms in the sector that support the adoption of a regulator to regulate the sector. Further, such a major change should only be made after extensive consultation with the sector and formal assessment of the performance and progress the ACNC. Lastly, a proper Regulatory Impact Statement (RIS) should be issued, not an RIS that has its foundation into giving effect to government election promises (Source).”

    [youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O82S3YOSj5k[/youtube]
    Aid workers in action

    Manus Island

    After the Manus Island riot and the death of Reza Berati there has been a growing disquiet towards the Salvation Army, its workers on the Island that day and their actions in the days after.

    [youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KduRZp4AK5Q[/youtube]

    This sentiment towards the Salvation Army would be partially due to a certainty it has established in the hearts and minds of many Australians, that certainty being, that no matter what, the Salvo’s are there to help. Yet the allegations that it was a Salvation Army worker that led to the death of Reza Berati (Source), saw that the hearts and minds of the Australian people became confused.

    Whilst immigration minister Scott Morrison said;

    “the riots represented a “terrible, tragic and distressing series of incidents that involved serious and indeed a fatal act of violence(Source).”

    He concluded his act of regret and despair with;

    “But, if the asylum seekers had not started the violent protests, Mr Berati would still be alive (Source).”

    There is a lot that we will never know about that riot which led to the death of a young man just starting out in life, because according to our government,’ it’s an on water, well on island matter and therefore none of the Australian peoples business.’ However, the Salvo’s have provided great services to hundreds of thousands of people during Australia’s modern era, though now, in the political doldrums of regressionisms, some practices utilised during the Australian modern era might not work.

    [youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mJRr_Gc3NDc[/youtube]
    Australian Red Cross: Our past, present and future.

    There is so much hardship and need in the world, that getting one small corner of it right is something that should be celebrated and not torn down due to a need for control or a desire to destroy all the good a rival political party has brought to bear. Too much of this type of politics is rampant in the world. One person can make a difference, you just need to decide what type of difference you wish to make.

    JMO

    JMO

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