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ABL webinar raises major issues about regulator’s treatment of charities

Native Title & Public Interest Law

Following last month’s victory for our client Global Citizen in its dispute with the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission, Arnold Bloch Leibler hosted a webinar discussion on the implications of the decision by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal that Global Citizen’s application for PBI status had been wrongly denied.

Opening the webinar, partner Joey Borensztajn explained that Global Citizen had approached Arnold Bloch Leibler in 2017 when it was seeking the all-important charity classification. In describing the process Joey explained “We assisted them to apply and were rejected, made submissions and failed, responded to a Notice of Intention to Refuse Registration and failed, responded to a Notice of Decision to Refuse Registration and failed, applied for an internal review and failed. Ultimately, we referred the matter to the AAT.”

“Why did we commit the time, energy and resources to this matter? ABL don’t take on these matters lightly,” Joey said. “I can confidently speak for all of us in saying that we believed in Global Citizen, and the causes it supports and advocates. We did not agree with the restricted interpretation of the law demonstrated by the ACNC, and felt that its treatment of charities, and Global Citizen in particular, needed to be challenged.”

Also speaking at the webinar were the two counsel who agreed to work with ABL on the matter pro bono, Jennifer Batrouney AM QC and Angela Lee.

Jennifer didn’t hold back in telling 100 plus participants in the webinar that the ACNC’s approach to assessing PBI needs to change. “I have seen countless ACNC cookie cutter decisions on objections which all bear a remarkable similarity to one another, regardless of the subject matter of the decision, which each state that the entity has a ‘non-benevolent purpose of advocacy’ and that these advocacy activities ‘lack a clear mechanism for delivery of benevolent relief’”.

Jennifer called on the regulator to actively review each PBI refusal decision in order to identify those which include a reference to a “non-benevolent purpose of advocacy” and/or a reference to “lack of a clear mechanism for the delivery of relief”, given the findings by the AAT in this matter. 

To watch a recording of the webinar, click here.

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