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Zed Seselja (Facebook)

The Productivity Commission’s draft report on philanthropy represents a major attack on Catholic and other faith-based schools, religious charities and – ultimately – on religion itself, writes Zed Seselja. Source: The Catholic Weekly.

Coming on the back of the Australian Law Reform Commission’s draft report a year earlier which Jacinta Collins, executive director of National Catholic Education Commission, said would “make it impossible for Catholic schools to be Catholic”, it appears to be part of a pattern of attacks on faith-based institutions by different arms of the Australian Government.

The report recommends removing tax deductibility for donations to school building funds so that donations to other areas “with greater social benefits” could be prioritised.

It is reminiscent of the conditions that led to the famous Goulburn school strike more than 60 years ago – governments imposing obligations on Catholic schools without properly assisting them in meeting these obligations.

This strike eventually led to a bi-partisan political consensus that faith-based schools should get their fair share of funding. This consensus would be undermined if the recommendation were adopted by the federal Government.

In addition to its attack on faith-based schools, the report also recommends the abolition of Basic Religious Charities (BRC).

BRCs (which can include parishes and archdioceses) are a category of charity that have lower reporting and governance requirements than other charities, but also have less access to government grants and do not attract tax deductibility for the donations they receive.

A third recommendation of the draft report would (among other things) take away tax deductibility for donations to organisations providing religious education in government schools. This would be a blow to those thousands of families, including Catholic families who greatly value having this option for their kids.

Finally, and perhaps most concerning, the draft report recommends expanding tax deductibility for donations to most charity types, while specifically excluding charities registered under the subtype advancing religion.

This sends an unmistakeable message that, in the view of the Productivity Commission, religion and religious practice has little or no societal value.

This is a shocking misunderstanding of the nature of faith and of Australian history.

Zed Seselja was a minister in the Coalition government from 2016-2022 and now leads a specialist advisory business serving education, corporate and not-for-profit clients.


Zed Seselja: Report sees religion as having little value (The Catholic Weekly)