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Hon Dr Andrew Leigh MP

September 08th, 2022

“Giving back needs to be part of living a good life, not only because it makes you happier and healthier but that ensures that our charities and not-for-profits can continue to survive and thrive.’’

Hon Dr Andrew Leigh MP, Assistant Minister for Competition, Charities and Treasury 

Donating really is good for your health and that’s why the Albanese Government has committed ourselves to double Australian philanthropy by 2030. Philanthropy Australia inspired us in this promise, and we look forward to working with you to make it a reality. That will take charitable giving as a share of national income to the level currently experienced by New Zealand. We think it’s an ambitious target but an achievable one. 

Over the course of recent weeks, I’ve been holding building community forums to which Australians charities have been invited. We’ve held in every Australian capital city – except Darwin (we’re coming to Darwin) – and we’re very keen to be on the same page as Australian charities and that we draw out the ideas and energy from those organisations about what we do next. We’ve made a number of key decisions – not enforcing gag clauses in social services agreements and committing to never put them in. We’ve said we’re going to work with states and territories to harmonise charitable fundraising laws, dealing with the mish-mosh of fundraising laws that currently waste a week of staff members’ time for a charity that seeks to raise money online. We hope we can get this done speedily. It’s an important reform and I’ve been reaching out to state and territory ministers to make sure we’re on the same page and that we can move swiftly to harmonise fundraising laws. 

That next phase needs to involve working with charities to reduce reporting duplication and to ensure that we have a more vibrant and active sector…I’d like to see more focus on impact evaluation, on assessing what charities do on the ground. One of the reasons I think this is so important is because there is a risk that if we don’t measure charities on impact, people will begin to measure charities based on administrative overheads. That would effectively say that a charity that invests in training its staff is an ineffective charity because that spending would fall into the category of administration. I don’t believe that to be the case. So, I think we really need to focus on impact measurement. Personally, I’m a fan of and charity navigators impact assessment for US charities. I’d like to see better measurement of what’s done.   

Giving back needs to be part of living a good life, not only because it makes you happier and healthier but that ensures that our charities and not-for-profits can continue to survive and thrive. 

Labor believes in the value of charities speaking out in the public square. We recognise this is good for charities, good for their members and good for the health of the democracy. 

What I’d really like to do is to ensure that among Australia’s super-rich that the Number One topic of conversation is not how big is your super yacht, it’s not where your plane is headquartered, it’s what is your charitable work. Perhaps what is your private foundation involved in, what are the causes you help and maybe even how you measure the impact to make sure you make that …difference out there on the ground. That’s the conversation I want Australia’s super-rich to be having with one other…. for the good of the country.  

This is an edited extract from a keynote address at the Philanthropy Australia national conference 2022.

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