The Australian Government has released exposure draft legislation that amends the secrecy provisions in the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission Act 2012 (ACNC Act) to allow the Australian Charities and Not‑for‑profits Commission (ACNC) to make increased disclosures regarding new and ongoing investigations.
The draft Bill amends the ACNC Act to allow for disclosures regarding ongoing ACNC investigations, subject to a safeguard of a public harm test.
The amendments allow the Commissioner to authorise an ACNC officer to disclose information about an ongoing investigation where the disclosure would prevent or minimise the risk of significant harm.
The public harm test is intended to balance the benefits of enhanced transparency with potential reputational risks to charities and the need to ensure personal and confidential information is handled appropriately.
The government welcomes feedback from stakeholders on the draft legislation and explanatory materials.
The 2018 ACNC Legislation Review identified the ACNC secrecy provisions as overly restrictive and recommended reforms to enable increased disclosures from the ACNC.
A 2021 consultation with the charity sector also revealed support for increased disclosures given the educational benefits and the potential to lift public trust and confidence in a sector that relies heavily on donors and philanthropists to support its activities.
In the 2023-24 Budget, the government agreed reforms to the ACNC secrecy provisions that will allow the Commissioner to disclose:
- de-identified reasons for decisions to accept or refuse applications for registration of charities where these are of educational benefit to the charity sector (Area 1)
- information about the existence of an ongoing investigation into a charity where disclosure is necessary to prevent public harm (Area 2), and
- finalised compliance investigations that did not result in formal compliance action, where disclosure is in the public interest (Area 3).
The draft Bill implements reforms to allow increased disclosures to ongoing investigations (Area 2).
The government will provide further updates as implementation of these reforms progresses. Area 3 will be implemented through further amendments to ACNC legislation, which will be consulted on separately.
Media and news
- Media release – Consultations open on legislation to improve the integrity of the charity sector – 28 September 2023