Charitable Trusts Amendment Bill 2010

Extract from Hansard
[COUNCIL — Tuesday, 22 February 2011]


Second Reading

HON LYNN MacLAREN (South Metropolitan) [5.55 pm]: The Greens (WA) will support the Charitable
Trusts Amendment Bill 2010. As we have heard, this bill will amend the Charitable Trusts Act 1962 to make it
easier for the community to support bodies such as the State Library of Western Australia, the Western
Australian Museum and the Art Gallery of Western Australia through charitable trusts. The Greens support
legislative measures that will aid philanthropy. I note the list of prominent Western Australian philanthropists
that Hon Kate Doust has just given us. That makes one proud to be a Western Australian. It is notable that in
Western Australia, alongside the growing number of homeless people and families who are struggling due to the
high cost of living, there is also a growing number of financially wealthy individuals, thanks to the resources
boom, and some of these individuals do contribute generously to charities, particularly when there is a tax
advantage to doing so.

Hon Kate Doust mentioned the amazingly thriving benevolent societies that exist in the United States. I do not
have any personal experience of that culture. But I support the comment made by Hon Kate Doust that in the
United States there does seem to be a culture of sharing the wealth. I believe this bill will be a good step forward
in enabling that same culture to develop in Western Australia.

This bill originated from a request by the Minister for Culture and the Arts. In our view, culture and the arts in
Western Australia is underfunded. This bill will be one method of attracting some additional funding for culture
and the arts. A good recent example of the lack of funding for culture and the arts is the Indigo journal. I have
mentioned this issue previously. Indigo is the journal of Western Australian creative writing. I mention at this
juncture that members may like to attend the event that will be held at the University of Western Australia on
5 March to mark the publication of the last volume—volume 6—of that journal. Unfortunately Indigo is one of
the many exciting and creative projects in Western Australia that has somehow missed out on funding from
government and is struggling to keep going. Hopefully the opening up of charitable trusts through this bill will
benefit projects such as Indigo. I regret, though, that it will be a bit late for that project.

I now want to ask the parliamentary secretary a couple of questions, along the same lines as those asked by Hon
Kate Doust. Will this bill have the effect of allowing greater access to donations by charitable organisations
other than the culture and the arts organisations that are noted in the second reading speech? In particular, of
course, my interest as a member of the Greens is non-government organisations such as environment groups and
charities that are deductible gift recipients. I would like to get an indication from the parliamentary secretary
about the breadth of charities that might benefit from these changes.

I have asked the Attorney General about who was consulted on this bill. The Attorney General has advised me
that the Department of Culture and the Arts, the State Solicitor’s Office and the Supreme Court were all
consulted on this bill. However, I was a bit dismayed to learn that not one non-government organisation was
consulted. Non-government organisations play a vital democratic role as advocates and providers of services. As
we in this house would know, they have contributed invaluable experience in the preparation of previous bills of
this kind. Many non-government organisations rely on charitable donations. It would have been interesting to
seek their input on this bill to see whether the scope of this bill might have been broadened a bit. It might well be
that this bill will encompass their needs, and that would be a great thing. However, it is notable that nongovernment
organisations were not consulted. It is notable also that even charitable trusts were not consulted in
the drafting of this bill.

This bill was also not considered by a committee. Another question that I would put to the parliamentary
secretary is whether this bill should have been referred to the Standing Committee on Uniform Legislation and
Statutes Review, given that the problem that is being addressed here in Western Australia has already been
addressed in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland. I have learned something, though. The legislative
framework for charitable trusts is not uniform across Australia. I am not sure why Australia would not treat
charitable trusts uniformly.

Sitting suspended from 6.00 to 7.30 pm

Hon LYNN MacLAREN: I was just concluding my remarks in support of the legislation before us. The
Charitable Trusts Amendment Bill 2010 is supported by the Greens. I was concluding by saying that the
legislative framework for charitable trusts is not uniform across Australia. I queried why Australia would not
treat charitable trusts uniformly across all states. I would have thought that we could learn from the experience of
other states. I note that in this particular instance we are using the New South Wales legislation as a framework,
which I think is interesting. I would like to hear why we chose that legislation over the legislation of other states
and what benefits that might give us.

In conclusion, members may be interested to learn that Philanthropy Australia charts the donations that are
distributed by private ancillary funds and foundations. In my research I discovered that in fact culture and the
arts had a spike in donations that were distributed to it in 2006–07. It was quite a considerable jump; $40 million
was distributed to culture and the arts that year. For some reason that dropped off dramatically in 2007–08 when
less than $10 million was distributed to culture and the arts. I am really hoping that we can see the impact of this
legislation once it is enacted and see that figure for culture and the arts jump again.

Interestingly enough, as Hon Kate Doust mentioned, distributions of charitable donations to welfare
organisations have consistently increased. The drop-off of donations to culture and the arts in such a dramatic
fashion may indicate the need for this legislation. I think it coincided with the change in the federal legislation,
which made it more difficult for people who were philanthropically inclined to give to culture and the arts. We
are delighted to support such a positive direction that facilitates philanthropy in the state and in particular might
benefit the State Library of Western Australia and the state’s museums and art galleries.