Australian Charities Commission Approved

Senator Nick Xenophon
Senator Xenophon’s Charities Commission has been passed which means groups like Scientology will have to prove they are providing a public benefit in order to maintain their tax exempt status.  Today/Tonight takes a victory lap for their coverage of Scientology over the past many years, which the Senator describes as a crucial component in getting the commission approved.

Australian Charities Commission is Bad News for Scientology

Senator Nick Xenophon
UPDATE:  September 7, 2010
Senator Xenophon’s year-long quest for justice for the victim’s of corporate Scientology is paying off.  The Australian Senate gave bipartisan support to the creation of a Charities Commission which would determine if a group such as Scientology does more harm than good.  Are they truly charitable?  Do they benefit society?  Are they worthy of getting a tax break from the Australian government?

The commission would ensure charitable and religious organisations were open and transparent.
They would also need to be able to prove they deserved a charitable status.
Independent Senator Nick Xenophon has welcomed bipartisan support for the commission, saying organisations such as the Church of Scientology are on notice.
“I believe reform is now inevitable. We can’t continue to have business as usual when it comes to organisations that have been beyond any reasonable level of accountability,” Mr Xenophon said.
He believes reform in the sector is inevitable.
“This inquiry came about because of legislation I introduced for a public benefit test for religions and charities, and it was as a direct result of being approached by many victims of the Church of Scientology,” he said.
“Their evidence, their complaints played a key role in triggering this inquiry.”

Wikinews has a fine article on the commission.  And Bryan Seymour takes a look back at the battle in this report from Today Tonight.
Earlier, Xenophon managed to get a hearing called on the topic.  You can watch the entire proceedings below.
DAY ONE – June 28th, 2010:
Dr. Stephen Mutch presents his views on cults and the public trust and is questioned by members of the Australia Senate committee.

Testimony from Janette Vonthenthoff, Carmel Underwood, Paul Schofield, Kevin Mackey and James Anderson.

Members of Cult Information and Family Support (CIFS) testify.

Trevor Garret from the Charity Commission of New Zealand talks about how they grappled with the issue.

Andrew Lind of  Corney and Lind Lawyers states his concerns about the state making these changes.

Scientology defends itself with witnesses Virginia Stewart, Mike Ferriss, Michael Gordon, Louise McBride.

David Nicholls from the Atheist Foundation of Australia testifies.

David Locke and Joanne Edwardes of the UK Charities Commission testify.

Day Two – June 29th, 2010:
Testimony from Australian Christian Lobby (4 parts) Lyle Shelton, Chief of Staff Ben Williams, Research Officer Dr. Matthew Turnour and Prof. Myles McGregor Lowndes (6 parts) Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (6 parts) Father Brian Lucas, General Secretary Melbourne Law School, Not-for-Profit Project (3 parts) Dr Matthew Harding, Senior Lecturer Dr Joyce Chia, Research Fellow Treasury and Australian Taxation Office (10 parts) Treasury Michael Wilcock, General Manager, Personal and Retirement Income Division Sandra Roussell, Manager, Philanthropy and Exemptions Unit Australian Taxation Office Greg Williams, Acting Deputy Commissioner of Small and Medium Enterprises Michael Hardy, Assistant Commissioner Policy & Government Liaison and Government & Not for Profit Sector

Many thanks to YouTuber mnql2 for the gargantuan task of getting all this video online.