by John M. Simpson.
We have reported previously on the activities of Aussie Farms, an animal rights group in Australia that, earlier this year, published an internet-based interactive map showing the locations and other information regarding hundreds of farms and other animal-based businesses in Australia. The map provoked a strong, negative reaction from the agriculture community in Australia, with some calling for the revocation of Aussie Farms’ status as a charity. On November 18, 2019, the Australian Charities and Not-for-Profits Commission (ACNC) announced that it had “revoked the charity status of Aussie Farms following an investigation.”
According to the ACNC, an investigation had been undertaken into the charity which was completed on November 18, 2019. The decision to revoke the charity’s status was “effective from that date.” ACNC Commissioner Hon. Dr. Gary Johns was quoted as observing that “[r]evocation of charity status is the most serious action that the ACNC can take,” and that “[b]y revoking the charity registration of Aussie Farms Inc, the organization is no longer able to access Commonwealth charity tax concessions.” Dr. Johns observed further that “[c]harities must stick to their purpose, and maintain their obligations under the ACNC Act, Charities Act and adhere to Governance Standards.”
The charity registration record for Aussie Farms bears the notation “Charity registration is revoked.”
Due to certain confidentiality provisions of the ACNC Act, the ACNC is apparently prohibited from publishing the findings of its investigation or the nature of the concerns that had been raised. Aussie Farms evidently has the right to an appeal of the revocation.
ACNC describes itself as Australia’s “national regulator of charities,” established by Australian law to achieve the following objectives:
- maintain, protect and enhance public trust and confidence in the Australian not-for-profit sector.
- support and sustain a robust, vibrant, independent and innovative not-for-profit sector.
- promote the reduction of unnecessary regulatory obligations on the sector.
The ACNC action followed days after the Parliament of the Australian state of New South Wales passed a measure increasing the penalties for trespassing on agricultural land which was at least in part an apparent response to the activities of Aussie Farms.