Labor Announces Portfolio for Member-Owned Firms
10 November 2016 at 4:57 pm
Labor has committed to a suite of policy reforms designed to support Australia’s co-operatives and mutuals, including a new portfolio to oversee the sector, in what has been called a “historic moment”.
Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh announced that his portfolio suite would expand to include member-owned firms at the cooperatives and mutuals leaders’ summit on Thursday.
“It is my pleasure to have had responsibility for member-owned firms become part of my portfolio suite. Just as small business rightly has a designated shadow ministerial representative, so too do member-owned firms in Labor,” Leigh said.
“As part of my role, I not only wish to reaffirm Labor’s support, but announce our areas of prioritisation to facilitate growth in the sector.”
Melina Morrison, CEO of the sector’s peak body, the Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals (BCCM), welcomed the announcement.
“That’s the first time, to our knowledge, in the history of Australian federal politics that there has been portfolio coverage, opposition or otherwise, for this sector,” Morrison told Pro Bono Australia News.
“It’s a historic moment for the sector.
“A development like this can only have a positive outcome in the sense that… it’s the responsibility of a minister at least to have oversight and delegated responsibility for the sector.
“From our point of view it can only help as we go forward in terms of raising the levels of awareness within government that co-operatives and mutuals exist and that they are important to the economy.”
Labor’s commitment to reforms are based on the bipartisan recommendations from the Senate inquiry into member-owned firms, handed down in March, and focus on improving access to capital and creating a level playing field.
“In my discussions with many stakeholders, the most significant limitation on the cooperatives sector has been access to capital. Inequitable access to capital constrains growth for member-owned firms, and inhibits their ability to best meet the needs of their members,” Leigh said.
“The Labor Party is committed to ensuring fairer access to capital. We are committed giving legal certainty on definitions and director’s duties in the Corporations Act for member-owned firms.
“Labor will offer in-principle support for the reintroduction of the lapsed Corporations Amendment (Crowd-sourcing funding) Bill 2015 to ensure unnecessary regulatory imposts are removed, and the bill serves the capital needs of small and start-up enterprises.
“In addition to these reforms, a practical measure that can be implemented immediately is giving your sector equal access to government grants. Labor understands member-owned firms should be eligible for government grants on an equal footing with other organisations.”
Morrison also welcomed this announcement.
“We’re really, really pleased, and we welcome Labor’s very clear statement of intent to work as a party for the full implementation of those recommendations,” she said.
“This is an even stronger signal that Labor is truly committed as a party to seeing those [bipartisan] recommendations implemented.”
Also at the leaders’ summit this week, the BCCM released the 2016 National Mutual Economy Report, which found the top 100 member-owned companies grew 4 per cent in the 2014/15 financial year.
The turnover for this cohort was $30.5 billion, and they had combined assets of $143.7 billion.
Morrison said the results demonstrated the economic importance of co-operative and mutual enterprises (CMEs).
“The report shows that Australia’s member-owned businesses is growing strongly, with the top 100 CMEs recording an 18 per cent growth in turnover over a five-year period,” she said.