Charities urge Abbott not to shut Not-for-Profit Commission

MORE than 50 of Australia's biggest charities have urged the Abbott government not to close down the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission, amid growing fears the commission will be abolished.

The open letter to Prime Minister Tony Abbott was signed by charities including Lifeline, the RSPCA, Save the Children, Volunteering Australia and the Ted Noffs Foundation.

It calls on the government not to abolish the new commission, which regulates all charities and non-profits in Australia, and provides transparency of their operations.

But the call comes as fears within the commission continue to rise that the government will try to repeal the acts creating the commission during its "red tape repeal day" next Wednesday.

A commission spokeswoman admitted the "future is uncertain", but said it would continue to operate as "business as usual until there is a change to our legislation".

While the government has not said publicly it plans to abolish the commission, the Coalition voted against the original proposal in parliament, and uncertainty is rising within the charities sector.

Should such a plan be introduced in parliament when the government reveals the specific legislation to be repealed, any actual repeal is almost certain to face opposition from Labor and The Greens in the Senate.

The commission was established by the previous government to improve the regulation of charities, increase donations and take it off the hands of the tax office.

But some exclusive, high-end charities and philanthropy organisations have previously criticised the commission, arguing wealthy donors did not want their funding made public.

Community Council for Australia chief executive David Crosbie said abolishing the commission's role and returning regulation to the tax office was "putting a fox in charge of a hen house".

Mr Crosbie said the majority of charities were "deeply alarmed" that the government was considering abolishing the commission "which would mean we will lose all the gains" made when it was established in 2012.

"It is just as concerning that there is absolutely no plan relating to what will replace the Charities Commission. There is no plan at all," he said.

"It certainly seems his is about satisfying a small minority that oppose transparency across charities. That's disturbing."

The letter said in just over one year of operation, the commission had already established the first public national register of charities, registered 2600 new bodies and resolved more than 200 complaints.

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