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Scrap the Charities Bill, say Greens

18 August, 2004

Scrap the Charities Bill, say Greens

The Green Party today called for the Charities Bill to be axed before it inflicts serious damage on the not-for-profit sector.

Green MP Sue Bradford said the bill was so unsound that the best outcome would be for the Government to scrap it entirely and start again. The Social Services select committee, of which Ms Bradford is a member, will be hearing submissions in Auckland this Thursday and Friday.

"This bill is fundamentally flawed and has created widespread dissatisfaction throughout the community sector," said Ms Bradford, the Party's spokesperson for the Community and Voluntary Sector. "Right from the start it showed a total lack of understanding about the way the not-for-profit 'third' sector works.

"This mess is the result of the bill being drafted by Treasury and the Ministry of Economic Development officials who lack the necessary familiarity with the needs and values of the third sector. Now we have a bill that simply doesn't achieve anybody's goals - the Government's or community groups'.

"The problem with this bill is that it's trying to fix problems that don't necessarily exist, without adequately addressing those that do exist, so now the Government is seeking to impose regulation and control on the sector in a way that is completely out of line.

"I call on the Government to start again, drawing on the knowledge and good work that the Ministry of Social Development has carried out with the voluntary sector over the last five years. It is important that the public have confidence in the sector's integrity, but this bill will be of no help," she said.

Ms Bradford added that the Bill in its current form threatened to undermine the very essence of the community and volunteer sector.

"The Charities Bill poses a real threat to one of the cornerstones of our democracy - the ability of people to come together and advocate for all manner of social, economic and environmental causes," she said.

"Freedom of speech would be clouded because organisations that speak out on political issues would risk being deregistered by the Charities Commission.

"And the Charities Commission, as a 'Crown Agent' will be required to implement Government policy. Many organisations such as social services and environmental groups would be directly threatened, especially if a National - Act Government ever wielded that power.

"For goodness' sake, this badly conceived, badly written legislation even threatens the ability of religious organisations to continue to attract tax-exempt status for providing relief work. It's just not on," she said.

ENDS

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