ACNC responds to media backlash

The Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC) has responded to public criticism and allegations it is “picking on the Catholic Church.”

The Catholic archbishop has plans to raise concerns with the Prime Minister about a regulatory investigation over the Catholic Education Melbourne’s political misconduct activities, receiving backing from Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and former Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

ACNC Commissioner, Gary Johns, said of its investigation into the Catholic Education Melbourne: “We are undertaking this investigation because of the activities and statements made on behalf of this one charity during the recent by-election for the Federal seat of Batman.

“We’re commenting on the investigation to clarify matters about the conduct of this investigation that have recently arisen in the public arena.”

The public arena refers primarily to an article written in The Weekend Australian in which the ACNC were reported to be an independent but government entity that was “threatening” the church with criminal sanctions for its alleged role in the by-election.

However, the Commissioner clarifies: “The ACNC is a regulator independent of government direction. The ACNC is not directed by government to investigate charities, or to reach specific outcomes following an investigation.”

According to The Australian, Elder said he received an email from the ACNC informing him he was under investigation and could be jailed for up to one year.

“We are required by the ACNC Act to include in such notices an alert to the charity about potential penalties under the Commonwealth Criminal Code for providing false or misleading information or documents,” Johns clarifies.

“The ACNC itself does not have any powers to determine criminal matters.”

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