BCCM tells Federal Treasury that Australian business has a missing middle

02 December 2022

The Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals has pointed to Australian manufacturing’s “missing middle” in a submission to Federal Treasury’s Employment White Paper.

The White Paper is to provide a roadmap for a bigger, better-trained and more productive workforce in order to boost incomes and living standards, and written submissions closed this week.

In its submission, the BCCM said it has ‘oven ready’ plans for establishing place-based partnerships that will deliver long-term, high-quality employment and prosperity.

“Our proposals will enable co-operatives and mutuals to establish enterprise clusters that will deliver on the Government’s objectives of increasing domestic capacity to create long term quality employment and prosperity across all regions of Australia,” said BCCM CEO Melina Morrison.

The submission outlines the development of regional business clusters around strong co-operatives and mutuals through a national Centre for Co-operative Business Growth – a 24-month industry-led program that could start immediately.

“Federal support of $10 million would allow the sector to create the infrastructure required to deliver a return multiplier estimated at up to six times the value of investments,” said Ms Morrison.

“Australian manufacturing has a missing middle,” said Ms Morrison. “The need for a larger mid-sized business sector to produce more finished goods onshore has been highlighted by three years of disrupted global supply chains.”

The BCCM’s White Paper submission describes mid-sized co-operative and mutual firms as key to economic recovery.

It notes they are often significant employers in regional towns and major players in regional economies, and argues there should be greater assistance for the expansion of existing co-operatives and mutuals through diversification, acquisition and new product development.

“In this way, high quality jobs will be maintained and expanded, particularly in regional Australia,” said Ms Morrison.

More broadly, the BCCM submission states that co-ops and mutuals should be considered as one of the pillars of national economic and social development. And that:

  • Policy should encourage the development of CMEs in areas where they have an important role to play or provide services that are not otherwise provided
  • Policies should support capital access and retention in CMEs
  • Regulations should treat CMEs on terms no less favourable than those accorded to other forms of enterprise
  • The registration of co-operatives should be as rapid, simple and affordable as possible

Australia has more than 1,800 co-operatives and mutuals. They exist in almost every sector of the economy in Australia, including agriculture, housing, health, retail, mobility, wholesale and community services.

The top 100 Australian co-operatives and mutuals have a turnover of more than $34 billion, and 8 in 10 Australians are a member of at least one co-operative or mutual.

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