NSW State Election: Co-operatives Policy

15 March 2019

The BCCM has called on the NSW Government and Labor Party to commit to working with the Federal Government to ensure the inclusion of State registered co-operatives in the national business modernisation programme.

Open Letter to NSW Politicians

“Co-operatives are the only remaining corporate business structure in NSW that is registered and administered entirely at the State level. Yet, historically relegated to a back-office function, these important NSW-owned and operated businesses are set to become further marginalised through oversight and neglect.

The Federal Government’s National Business Simplification Initiative includes the Modern Business Registries project. NSW co-operatives are currently excluded from this modernisation programme.

This exclusion also means that directors of NSW co-operatives will not be provided with a Director Identification Number, potentially leading to directors who are removed from listed companies moving into the co-operative sector.

Registry functions for companies are administered by ASIC through an online platform with some linkages to other registers. Registry functions for co-operatives are not only paper based, they are jurisdictionally separate, and cumbersome with no connectivity to other relevant registers.

Co-operatives operate in the same competitive markets as other company types. Not including NSW co-operatives increases the competitive disadvantage of this valuable sector. They will become even more ‘invisible’ because they are outside the normal registry systems for Australian businesses.

NSW Labor’s announcement on 4 March of a commitment to form a unit to support co-operative businesses is welcome. However, simply adding to government touch-points, falls short of the action required to provide parity of treatment for co-operatives in NSW.

We have called on the Federal Government to amend legislation currently before the Parliament to allow the proposed Commonwealth Registrar to accept referrals of functions from State and Territory agencies. The best thing Government can do for co-operative businesses is to commit to working with the Federal Government to ensure inclusion of the State’s co-operatives in this important business reform.

In the lead up to the State election, the BCCM is respectfully calling on all parties to commit to this pro-business policy. Co-operatives have worked for decades for the State’s economy and do not deserve to be left in a business ghetto.

Yours sincerely,

Melina Morrison
Chief Executive Officer

About Co-operatives in NSW

Eight in 10 NSW citizens are members of at least one co-operative or mutually owned business. The economic contribution of co-operatives and mutuals in NSW was $6.5 billion in FY18.

Almost 600 State registered co-operatives play a vital role in the NSW economy, employing thousands and supporting regional economies with long term work, local economic activity and community investment through sponsorships, donations, business partnerships and volunteerism.

Co-operatives combine purpose and private enterprise so that people can work together to solve their problems through self-help. As such they help communities be more resilient and less reliant on government handouts over the long term.

Co-operatives include well-known brands and many have been operating for close to a century, including NorcoYenda Producers Co-operativeIndependent Liquor Group, Northern Co-operative Meat CompanyHastings Co-operative and Plumbers’ Co-operative. Co-operatives provide a business platform for NSW based SMEs to gain access to global markets including dairy, horticulture and red meat export. Their domestic ownership model means all proceeds are repatriated to the NSW economy with no leakage of economic value from the State.

For more information on the role of co-operatives in NSW, please download the 2018 National Mutual Economy Report.

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