Co-operative and mutual businesses will work with Labor to build a stronger economy

23 May 2022

The Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals congratulates the Australian Labor Party on its successful election to Federal Government and urges greater collaboration with the sector in a bid to find effective and equitable solutions for the many challenges facing Australian communities.

“The recent experience of bushfires, flooding and the pandemic as well as the supply chain disruptions caused by the war in Ukraine highlight the importance of building greater resilience into the Australian economy,” BCCM chief executive Melina Morrison said.

“Co-ops and mutuals are a willing and proven private sector partner to help address issues of housing affordability, energy and fuel inflation, food insecurity, childcare, healthcare, employment casualisation and other cost of living pressures.

“Government, working together with co-ops and mutuals which are embedded in their local communities, with longer horizons than other businesses and social as well as economic purpose, will find the place-based, sustainable solutions needed to address intractable issues such as housing and job insecurity, workforce and skills shortages, and social care delivery.

“Australians have endured not only the impact of a global health pandemic but also a series of natural disasters that have tested community resilience to its limits.”

The BCCM said this was a chance to partner with the business sector with a proven record of investing from its own balance sheet, protecting jobs and caring for community throughout the pandemic. A report on the performance of Co-operative Mutual Enterprises during the height of the pandemic found that they were the true job keepers and had bailed-in from their own reserves rather than needing to be bailout-out to support their business survival.

A commitment by Labor to invest in co-operatives in advanced manufacturing was a sign of confidence in the ability of the business model to survive crises.

“The sector has historically played a significant role in nation building and we look forward to the opportunity for co-ops and mutuals to increasingly partner with government on major infrastructure projects,” Ms Morrison said

Under Labor’s proposed $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund, co-ops and mutuals will have the ability to participate in major manufacturing and infrastructure programs.

“The recent commitment by Labor of $39.3 million, matched by NRMA, to deliver a national rollout of EV charging stations, is a good example of the way that co-ops and mutuals can partner with government for nation building infrastructure,” Ms Morrison said

Ms Morrison said Labor’s community battery and housing policies, and aged care reform would also present opportunities for growth in community-owned co-ops.

“We look forward to working with the incoming Government to explore ways in which the co-operative and mutual business model can be applied to help achieve the goal of a more robust and disaster proof economy.

Ms Morrison encouraged the new government to use its mandate to implement policies that ensure a fairer experience for all Australians, particularly those living in regional areas that have borne the brunt of recent extreme weather events.

“Households and small businesses around the country are facing increasing cost of living pressures on a number of fronts and it is vital that we ensure those that are struggling do not fall further behind,” she said.

Ms Morrison said a priority for the new government should be to reinvigorate manufacturing and encourage a larger mid-sized business sector to ensure more finished goods can be produced locally.

“Germany, Austria and Switzerland have the ‘Mittelstand’ group of larger manufacturing companies to endure economic change and turbulence. Here, we have the co-op and mutual model for small to medium sized businesses looking to gain scale, strengthen supply chains and increase production. Co-operative business networks like Hunternet make it possible for us to ‘make more here’ and keep the profits here,” Ms Morrison said.

The BCCM also welcomed the opportunity to work with the new parliament on national regulation for co-ops and mutuals.

“We continue to stress the need for regulations to be simplified so that states and territories as well as federal jurisdictions can regulate the activities of co-ops and mutuals as effectively as any other business type.

The BCCM has called for the establishment of a Federal Minister for co-operatives and mutuals to assist with this process and has recommended that a national centre dedicated to co-operative business growth be established.

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