All of the Society’s entities are charities under the law as it now is. Given the stated object of the Bill to articulate the common law, rather than to change it, our assumption is that all of our entities will remain charities under the proposed Bill.

It is clear that, in any case, each of the Society’s entities easily meets the new, statutory criteria for “charity”. All our entities are not-for-profit, and all operate for a number of the listed charitable purposes, including relief of poverty, promotion of human rights, assistance with mental health, services to refugees, and help for people disadvantaged in the labour market. All entities also operate for one or more presumed public benefits: relieving illness (including mental illness), meeting the needs of the aged, relieving poverty, and advancing education.

There are two areas of the Society’s work that were of particular concern to us in our previous submission, which we will now discuss.

Vinnies Centres

We, along with others, were concerned that an “exclusive charitable purpose” test might rule out entities carrying on a business, where any monetary profits were fed back to the charity. Vinnies Centres (also known as stores or shops) seek to provide low-cost goods to disadvantaged people, provide volunteering and employment opportunities for the unemployed and underemployed, and raise funds for other Society programs.

The proposed legislation does not exclude such entities from being charities. Although “all” purposes of an entity must be charitable, and for the public benefit, under the new legislation a charitable purpose can legitimately be furthered by providing funds to other institutions that advance that charitable purpose. Thus, Vinnies Centres will be considered to have charitable purposes, as any profit from the ‘business’ goes solely to funding other programs with charitable purposes.

The National Office, and other advocacy

Advocacy plays a very large part in the work of many charities, including peak bodies. The Society’s National Office has been given the responsibility of advocating on behalf of the Society. Other entities within the Society advocate from time to time.

However, there were concerns raised in our last submission at the suggestion to remove advocacy work from the definition of a “public benefit”. The Society argued that the Aid/Watch case (Aid/Watch Incorporated v Commissioner of Taxation [2010] HCA 42.) lends support to our belief that advocacy advancing charitable purposes for public benefit, even if that advocacy is for a “political object” such as legislative reform, should fit fairly and squarely within any definition of charity.