To manage the ongoing threat posed by the coronavirus pandemic, the National Cabinet is taking further actions to protect the Australian community. The decisions being taken will have broad impacts on the business operations in many industries including co-operatives and mutuals. 

The Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals (BCCM) is working with its members to understand the essential services that co-operatives and mutuals provide to support the community and economy, including the eight in 10 Australians who are their members.

“Today’s deliberations by the National Cabinet on the essential services required to underpin the national response to COVID-19 demonstrate the vital importance of supply chain resilience especially by having a healthy Australian owned and operated business sector,” said BCCM CEO Melina Morrison.

“It is comforting to know, in this time of national crisis, that co-operatives and mutuals which are Australian owned and managed businesses, are operating across the Australian economy and society to provide essential services and products from banking, insurance, auto repair and roadside assistance and healthcare to food production, processing and retail, affordable housing and pharmacy.”

“Over the coming weeks and months domestic supply chains for products and services as diverse as cleaning and hospital grade hygiene supplies, health foods and fresh meat will become increasingly vital as non-domiciled supply chains face disruption. Our businesses are member-owned, not share-holder owned so they are not exposed to the same market volatility as other businesses.”

BCCM is advocating for the following industries to be recognised as essential services underpinning Australia’s response to COVID-19 by the National Cabinet:

  • Health and Community Services
    • General Practice, Aged Care, Disability Care, Health Insurance and Social Housing.
  • Agriculture
    • Including farm input wholesale and retail services, food production, food processing and related importing and exporting activities.
  • Commercial Cleaning
    • The provision of sanitary cleaning services, and any supply of goods or services necessary for provision of those services, are considered essential services under the Essential Services Act 1988 (NSW), to provide one example.
  • Transport and Logistics
    • Petrol stations and automotive service and repair business support the maintenance of vehicle transportation capability as an essential service.
  • Essential Retail Services
    • Pharmacies, supermarkets and groceries stores with care not to exclude butchers, seafood and health food stores.
  • Financial Services
    • Banks and Credit Unions who provide essential access to cash and other financial services for members of the community, particularly the elderly.

Similar industries have been recognised as essential services in the face of the pandemic in the United States.

The Department of Homeland Security Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency published a Memorandum on Identification of Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers During COVID-19 Response on 19 March. The following are identified as among the essential services required to continue operating at this time:

  • Public Health: including primary health, pharmacy, community services for vulnerable groups, pharmaceutical and cleaning product supply chain
  • Food and agriculture: including farm production, food processing, transportation, food retail
  • Energy: including fuel retail
  • Transport and Logistics: including automotive repair and maintenance facilities
  • Financial Services: including banking
  • Chemical: including all transport and manufacturing of goods required for medical and cleaning products.

BCCM has been sharing this information with Government officials, Ministers and Premiers co-ordinating the response. 

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