Speech by The Hon Christian Porter MP

Philanthropy Meets Parliament Summit


I would like to start by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet, and pay my respects to their elders–past and present.


Good morning to you all, and welcome to Parliament House.

Thank you to Philanthropy Australia for the invitation to address this year’s Philanthropy Meets Parliament Summit.

I acknowledge three members of the Prime Minister’s Community Business Partnership who are here today– Peter Treseder, Angela Perry and Colleen McGann.

Giving Australia Reports

To set the scene this morning I’m releasing the findings of the two new Giving Australia reports.

The new reports focus on Individual Giving and Volunteering, and Business giving.

They provide a valuable insight into the nature and status of giving in contemporary Australia as well as signposting the way ahead.

The Turnbull Government invested $1.7 million in 2015 for in-depth research and analysis for the series of reports that comprise the Giving Australia initiative.

Since then a literature review and a report on the giving patterns of high-net-worth and institutional givers have been released.

Some very interesting facts emerge from the two new reports I am releasing today.


In terms of individual giving, fewer people are donating money – but they are donating more.

In round figures 15 million – nearly 81 per cent – of the adult population donated a total of $12.5 billion in 2015-16.

And interestingly, those who made planned donations gave over six times as much as “spur of the moment” donors.

The report is valuable for charitable organisations showing they will need to be more innovative, transparent and sensitive to donors’ personal preferences if they are to attract future generations of givers.


By any measure, volunteering is a success story.

The number of Australians who are volunteering and the hours they devote to their voluntary activities have increased dramatically over the past decade.

In 2016, 43.7 per cent of adult Australians volunteered a total of 932 million hours.

This is a great contribution to the community.

I’ll also note that I’ve worked closely with Volunteering Australia to ensure $20 million in grants for volunteer management were maintained and funding certainty was given to those organisations who receive those grants.

Business Giving

The Business Giving Report has some very impressive findings.

Giving by small, medium and large businesses reached $17.5 billion in 2015-2016, clearly demonstrating that giving has become more integral to Australian business culture.

Even more significant is the fact that in little over a decade, business giving has increased a whopping $14.2 billion – a 400 per cent increase.

It is also worth noting that almost half of the business philanthropy came from small and medium sized enterprises.

A total of 85 per cent of large businesses which reported giving in their last financial year enabled their employees to donate regularly from their pre-tax wages.

The following key trends in business giving across all categories emerged from the report.

All want:

  • more workplace volunteering opportunities;
  • improved technology to strengthen giving administration; and
  • innovations in on-line payroll systems to facilitate both volunteering and giving.

We can take heart from these findings. Both in the community and the workplace, Australians continue to be generous with their time and their money.

With all data it is important to note corroborating evidence.

I was very pleased to see the Giving Australia findings corroborated recently in the Australian Major Performing Arts Group’s annual donor and sponsor survey.

The Group recorded its largest percentage increase in donations, sponsorship and fundraising revenue since 2011.

Philanthropic revenue grew by $12.6 million to $95.7 million in 2016, a 15.2 per cent increase on 2015 figures.

BUT we can still raise the bar – Australia’s giving contributions are around 0.7% of GDP. In the US they are 2.1%.

The data being released today provides very significant insights into possible paths forwards to greater giving.

If this were the type of data available in a fee for service business it would be poured over to try and better understand customer trends and promote greater demand for the product.

The idea that the customer is always right was popularised by early mega retailers like Harry Gordon Selfridge, the notion may now seem a little pass?.

But Selfridge and others pioneered the insight that selling business should be hyper sensitive to the needs of customers because they saw the key to people engaging was never allowing them to feel cheated, short-changed or deceived. And they pursued this approach in a time when the acceptability of misrepresentation based on the paradigm of caveat emptor was a governing philosophy of law and business.

Of course Australians who give are not customers but in fact that makes the need to have their trust that their donations are worth their efforts even more critical.

That is foundational to achieving that critical threshold to turning Australians into givers – trust and attention.

Attention in this sense is not just what retailers would consider pre and after sale service it should also be a real recognition of virtuous behaviour. A matter I will return to in a moment.


Governments have a role as enablers and one interesting project currently on hand is a joint initiative between my Department and the Behavioural Economics Team in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, or BETA.

The Turnbull Government is providing $835,000 over three years so BETA can test the potential for nudge economics to encourage additional planned giving through avenues such as bequests and workplace giving.

UK behavioural research shows the potential for prompting people who intend to leave charitable bequests in their wills but don’t get around to doing so.

Similarly, with workplace giving, especially pre-tax payroll giving, BETA will look at how we can further encourage this, including in the Commonwealth public sector.

The Prime Minister’s Community Business Partnership

I should also mention that the Prime Minister’s Community Business Partnership continues to provide leadership around helping Australian philanthropy to grow and thrive.

When the Prime Minister and I met with the Partnership in April, we talked about priorities to nourish a strong civil society through cultures of corporate social responsibility, strategic philanthropy and volunteering.

Over the coming year, the Partnership will progress its key priorities, including developing practical ways to address barriers to giving, and exploring the potential of investment and finance models and structures used internationally.

I was particularly interested in the work of several of the Partnership’s members who are looking at how community, philanthropic and government resources can be drawn together to support better child development outcomes.

Obviously Nicola and Andrew Forrest singled out early child development as one of the causes to benefit from their very generous $400 million philanthropic donation, and Nicola is of course a Partnership Member.

The Partnership has recently set up a First Thousand Days working group.

The group shares a focus with the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children with the current three year Action Plan dedicated to making a real difference to children in their critical first thousand days.

I would like to especially commend the Partnership on this initiative which is looking at how better planning and coordination of investments and doing things differently can have a lasting impact on the lives of children.

Returning briefly to the idea that trust and attention including the praise of virtuous behaviour are foundational in encouraging giving.

Press Conference

Immediately after the Forrest Donation – The Greens member of the House of Representative was asked for a comment.

There was no acknowledgment of virtue not even a basic indicator of the immense positivity of what had occurred.

Instead the response to the biggest single philanthropic gift in Australian history the comment was:

“The rich in this country need to start paying their fair share of taxes … the reason we are seeing these kinds of donations is because corporate Australia knows it has been taking the public for a ride”

The Data around giving should tell us many thing we should be doing – common sense and in fact good manners should tell us the things we should not be doing to increase philanthropy and that would start with – whatever your political views – acknowledging the good deeds when they occur.

IF there is never a recognition of when Corporate Australia produces great returns for our community we do not encourage more virtue.

Social Impact Investing

On that note, an initiative that will be of interest to this audience is the Government’s funding for social impact investing.

Social Impact Investments bring governments together with service providers, financial institutions and communities to tackle difficult social and environmental challenges.

This means there is a broad range of expertise and new thinking to draw on in tackling some of our most intractable problems.

The goal is to generate measurable outcomes while delivering a financial return to the investor.

The investor is reimbursed if outcomes are achieved.

Our decision to develop social impact investment opportunities follows a number of state government led initiatives, the first being the NSW Government’s Newpin social impact bonds.

The Newpin initiative was developed to restore children safely to their families from out-of-home care.

In this year’s Budget, the Turnbull Government allocated $30 million over ten years to grow the social impact investment market in Australia.

Around $10 million will support state and territory governments develop social impact investments to help young people at risk of homelessness.

Around $12 million will be used to trial social impact investments for priority groups to be identified through analysis of Commonwealth-state data.

And $8 million is for a Social Impact Investing Sector Readiness Fund.

This Fund will support non-government organisations to bring to market new social impact investments which address unemployment.

My Department consulted broadly on the Sector Readiness Fund, including with Philanthropy Australia, and I would like to thank those of you who gave us the benefit of your views.

Importantly, the Government has also announced a set of principles to help develop Australia’s Social Impact Investing market.

They include requirements for robust outcomes-based measurement and evaluation and a fair sharing of risk and return.

Social Impact Investing is part of the Government’s broader Welfare Reform, a substantial part of which is currently before Parliament.

Welfare Reform

As many of you will be aware, the McClure Review found Australia’s welfare system failed many Australians it was supposed to help and was in serious need of an overhaul.

The Government is making a concerted effort to ensure we build a welfare system that is fair and effective.

We want a system that helps rather than hinders vulnerable people’s path to a better life, including supporting them into work.

A key finding of McClure was that our social support system should invest in groups at greatest risk of remaining on long term welfare despite a capacity for self-reliance.

To do this we have developed the Australian Priority Investment Approach, which involves using actuarial analysis based on insurance principles to identify those most at risk of long term welfare dependency and help them move into employment.

Early insights from the Investment Approach have led us to another initiative that will be of interest to many of you here today.

Try, Test and Learn Fund

The $96 million Try, Test and Learn Fund involves business and the community partnering with government to find new approaches to helping some of the most vulnerable in our society into stable, sustainable employment.

Like Social Impact Investing, the TTL Fund acknowledges that government simply does not have the answers to all problems.

It acknowledges that if we are going to be serious about tackling society’s really difficult problems, we need to harness the best skills, experience and expertise from every quarter.

Initially we are focussing on young parents, young carers and young students at risk of long term unemployment.

Our first public call for submissions produced almost 400 ideas from the community sector, business, academics and individuals.

I will announce the initial approved projects soon.

What has been unique about the process is the significant level of collaboration with interested groups including both those proposing solutions and those directly affected by the outcomes.

Rather than offering up and funding a pre-defined project, we have brought the ideas in from the outside and are designing solutions in concert with those who will be most affected.

Between 20 – 26 November the Community and Philanthropy Partnerships Week provides a platform for groups big and small in cities and regions across the country to share their philanthropic achievements.

The Government is pleased to support this Philanthropy Australia initiative with $650,000 over three years and today I am releasing the names of 21 recipients of Partnership Week grants.

This grant will provide the recipients with the ability to showcase their partnerships with local business, including what their partnership has achieved in the community.

This is philanthropy and volunteering working at the grassroots, strengthening what Edmund Burke famously called the ‘little platoons’ who are the fabric of civil society and essential to its flourishing.

I look forward to hearing the results of your deliberations over these two days here at Parliament House.