23 September 2019

Clubs mobilise members against Chief Minister's plans for community contributions

| Ian Bushnell
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Chief Minister Andrew Barr has suggested diverting club contributions from poker machine revenue to the new Charitable Fund.

The licensed clubs lobby group is marshalling support from members and supporters against possible Government moves to divert club community contributions into the Chief Minister’s new Charitable Fund.

In an online letter to club members, ClubsACT has appealed to them to write to the Chief Minister, Ministers and MLAs opposing any such move.

The 2018 ACT Budget outlaid $5 million as base funding for the Charitable Fund, which will be administered by not for profit charity Hands Across Canberra.

ClubACT Chief Executive Gwyn Rees warned that clubs may not be able to guarantee their support for community groups in the future if Chief Minister Andrew Barr carried through with his idea to broaden the scope of contributions that come from poker machine revenue.

Mr Rees took issue with Mr Barr’s assertion that “community contributions that come out of the gaming sector’s legal requirements are very narrowly focused”, saying the Auditor-General had found that “ACT Gambling and Racing Commission has approved a broad and diverse range of expenditure as community contributions”.

He said Canberra’s clubs supported over 1000 community groups and contributed more than $11 million a year under the scheme.

“A recent Price Waterhouse Coopers report provides insight into the scheme valuing it at between $16.8 million to $33.2 million, this estimate represents what was delivered to the community in 2015-16 by these contributions. In other words, this level of impact would be lost (or have to be replaced with alternative programs) if the scheme ceased to exist or was otherwise changed,” Mr Rees said.

He said clubs collectively in the ACT were massive contributors to sport, maintaining over 400 hectares of urban green space, including bowling greens, football and cricket fields and golf courses, compared with the ACT Government’s 300 hectares.

“On behalf of the Board of ClubsACT, I need to alert you to the very serious threat to how our local clubs support the community,” Mr Rees said.

“Community clubs play a vital role in the economic, cultural and social fabric of our city, yet our community contributions scheme and the many ways in which we support the community is at risk.”

Mr Rees said Hands Across Canberra was a worthy local charity organisation, established to assist community groups to raise funds much like clubs and their hundreds of volunteer board members have been doing for over 90 years.

But many of the groups supported by Hands Across Canberra were also receiving support from clubs, he said.

“It is hard to believe that the Government thinks that moving funds from clubs, to the Government, then on to a charity won’t result in a net loss to community. When currently it goes from a club directly to a charity, community organisation or sporting group the club is working within its local community,” Mr Rees said.

“Help us reason with the ACT Government and prevent them from damaging the much needed funding support to our community groups… There is a very real risk that your favourite community organisation will not receive support from their local club anymore and that they will have to go cap in hand to a third party organisation for funding.”

Mr Rees also urged members to write to Hands Across Canberra.

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First time ever I’ve agreed with Mr Barr. The auditor general found that the “charitable contribution” of Clubs was pretty dodgy. I think it should go to 10% & be more public & transparent.

Clubs are formed by people with stated goals to promote certain values, activities or cultural pursuits.

The government and other community groups trying to get their hands on this money is just spite and greed that other people don’t share values or want to fund their pet projects.

If the government controls the money its simply an increase in taxation and they should call it that. It no longer becomes a community contribution.

If the Government has control of where the money goes then the “community contribution” becomes just another tax and that’s what it should be called. My beef here isn’t with Hands Across Canberra, but with the Government.

No doubt some charities have been allocated money from the budget. What if this allocation is replaced by the fund freeing up the budget money. Does that mean the fund goes back to rhe government to spend indirectly.

Ah, now you’ve got it.

If the government suddenly has a new funding source, they can then slowly drop funding similar areas and use the money elsewhere.

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