Regulator threatens Catholic education chief with jail

Stephen Elder (Catholic Education Melbourne)

Australia’s charity regulator has threatened Catholic Education Melbourne chief Stephen Elder with jail for campaigning against the Government’s schools funding policy. Source: The Weekend Australian.

The Australian Charities and Not-For Profits Commission has launched an investigation into CEM over robocalls and leaflets used during the March 17 Batman federal by-election. But the probe will extend well beyond the by-election period, with the ACNC demanding potentially thousands of pages of documents from July 1 last year to June 12 this year.

The ACNC has demanded an audit of the innermost workings of CEM, sending Mr Elder a list of three penalties if he fails to comply. They are 12 months’ jail for providing false and misleading information, 12 months’ jail for false or misleading documents and a $3600 fine for failing to comply with his notice.

“The ACNC is concerned that the actions of CEM may be placing the charity at risk of having a disqualifying purpose,’’ ACNC director of compliance Prue Monument wrote on June 12.

“Should the ACNC find evidence of noncompliance with the requirements under the ACNC Act or ACNC Regulation, the ACNC may decide to use its enforcement powers or to revoke the charity’s registration.

“If the outcome of the ACNC investigation results in revocation of the charity’s registration it will also result in the loss of tax concessions.’’

The investigation comes just days before Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is due to meet the heads of the Catholic Church in Australia to end the school funding war.

On Friday, Mr Elder said the Catholic sector would push ahead with its demands for a fairer deal for its schools, estimated to be as much as $2.5 billion to $3bn over the next 10 years.

“The Catholics didn’t pick this fight with the Turnbull government, but it’s my job to protect the interests of Australian families of modest financial means who want to send their kids to Catholic and low-fee independent schools,” he said.

“To shrink from the fight would be to betray those families, and that’s something I could never in good conscience do.”

FULL STORY

Jail threat for leader of Catholic schools lobby (The Weekend Australian)

RELATED COVERAGE

Bill Shorten labels probe into Catholic education as un-Australian (The Age)

Archbishops to question PM over future of Catholic charity (The Australian

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