The cost of harmonisation

The Commonwealth Government through COAG is driving harmonisation of laws and regulation in a range of sectors, the goal being replacement of conflicting sets of state laws with uniform national laws and replacing numerous regulators with a single national regulator.

Credit unions, building societies and friendly societies went through this process in 2000.

Private health insurers have nearly completed this process.

Co-operatives, charities and the not-for-profit sector are going through this process now.

Whilst the requirement for compliance with best practice standards (eg financial and governance) is important, many community organisations and co-operatives are having difficulty with the requirement to use common terminology and change their descriptor (are they all Community Social Welfare Organisations? Are they  'micro', 'small', 'medium' or 'large'?). Why must they be registered under the Corporations Act or, in the case of charities and not-for-profits, a National Fundraising Act? (see the Senate Commitee Report)

Could the cost of harmonisation and regulation be the loss of individuality of the different types of organisations and the disappearance of micro and small community organisations?

What is gained by using common terminology and rules for all charities and not for profits regardless of whether they are in the health sector, primary producers, community welfare or housing? Can we afford to lose these organisations? Or can we afford not to regulate these sectors?

Perhaps mutuals that have gone through the process can pass on lessons learned.

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