New Zealand

The Charities Commission in New Zealand has recently given notice to Family First NZ that it will deregister the organisation as a charity.

Not to be confused with the political party here in Australia, Family First NZ is an organisation committed to influencing public policy affecting the rights and protection of families, including marriage, abortion, euthanasia, adoption and advertising standards.

The organisation, directed by Bob McCoskrie (pictured right), has been told it will be de-registered as a charity because it promotes "a point of view about family life that does not…have a public benefit…[including] the view that the union of a man and a woman through marriage is the fundamental social unit." This is despite the fact that its main purpose is education and research on families - a provision aimed at and for the public.

Interestingly, the Charities Registration Board began investigating Family First NZ's status as a charity in the month following the start of the same-sex marriage debate (August 2012) in New Zealand. Although its investigation was to be completed by January 2013, the Board held off its notification until the marriage debate ended (with the passing of same-sex marriage legislation in April this year).

Its de-registration would have devastating effects: it will no longer be exempt from income tax, and donations to Family First NZ will no longer qualify for the donation rebate. This is despite it being a non-profit organisation funded purely by donations and gifts, and relying heavily on volunteer time.

Mr McCoskrie has promised to "continue to represent and be a voice for a massive proportion of New Zealanders on many social and family issues" even if the organisation loses its charitable status.

Recently in Australia, the federal government has released a Charities Bill 2013 Exposure Draft. Until now, the definition of 'charity' has been determined by common laws, which has preserved the 'presumption of public benefit' for churches and organisations that exist for the purpose of the "advancement of religion."

Although this has been maintained in the draft bill, it can be challenged "if there is evidence to the contrary”. If challenged, regard must be given to "any possible detriment from the purpose to the general public, a section of the general public, or a member of the general public."

This is concerning because it means that churches and religious organisations could lose their charitable status and income tax exemption, as has been the case with Family First NZ.

The ACL has made a submission to the inquiry and will continue to monitor the outcome.

Read this news article for more information.

Visit the official Family First NZ website for more information.