Melina Morrison gives evidence to the Senate Standing Committee on Economics

22 February 2023

BCCM CEO, Melina Morrison, gave evidence today to the Senate Standing Committee on Economics on the important role of co-operatives and mutuals in a strong domestic manufacturing sector both historically and in terms of the potential of co-ops and mutuals to innovate and grow.

Read Melina’s opening statement

The Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals (BCCM) thanks the Senate Standing Committee on Economics for the opportunity to comment on the National Reconstruction Fund Corporation Bill 2022. The BCCM is the national peak body for co-operatives and mutuals in Australia. The BCCM’s one hundred members represent their 11 million members across all sectors of the Australian economy.

The members of the BCCM are active across many of the proposed priority areas for the National Reconstruction Fund (NRF) including agriculture and fisheries, advanced manufacturing and circular economy,  renewable energy, transport and mobility, defence, critical minerals and medical science.

The NRF represents an important opportunity to boost Australian manufacturing and supply chain resilience across these sectors and to move to a serious partnership model between purpose-led businesses, government and Australian workers.

The purpose of co-ops and mutuals is to generate economic and social value for the eight in 10 Australians and more than 160,000 businesses that are members, and the communities where those members live.

Co-ops and mutuals:

  • Are long-term investors in domestic manufacturing because their members are local
  • Increase the resilience of Australia’s SMEs in a range of industries by helping them reduce input costs, access markets and share in profits from value-adding activities such as manufacturing
  • Are domestically-owned and pay taxes domestically
  • Earn vital export income for Australia
  • Generate quality employment across regional and metropolitan Australia
  • Enhance the function of markets by being the consumer and small business focused challengers

Public investment in co-operatives and mutuals will support these outcomes and will also act to accelerate the maturation of markets for member, community and private investment in co-operatives and mutuals, addressing historical constraints on the growth of co-ops and mutuals.

The BCCM welcomed the government’s election commitment to ensure the NRF will be able to invest in co-ops and mutuals, incIuding through Co-operative Capital Units and Mutual Capital Instruments. Our submission is focused on providing feedback on how the Bill can be designed to be enable the NRF to achieve this.

There is one recommendation from our submission that I’d like to highlight, which is that the equity interest definition in the Bill is amended to expressly allow for investment in Co-operative Capital Units.

We think this amendment would ensure co-operatives will be on an equal footing in relation to the National Reconstruction Fund.

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