Co-Ops Set Up Parliamentary Friendship Group
11 April 2017 at 4:46 pm
The national peak body representing Australian member-owned businesses, the Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals (BCCM), has formed a parliamentary friendship group for mutuals and co-operatives.
BCCM CEO Melina Morrison told Pro Bono News it was “great” that Nationals Senator for Victoria Bridget McKenzie and Labor shadow minister Andrew Leigh would co-chair the group.
“This bi-partisan chairing arrangement highlights the importance of co-operatives and mutuals to the Australian economy,” Morrison said.
“We know that eight in 10 Australians is a member of a co-op or mutual. Sadly, they’ve been hiding in plain sight for too long, and this has been reflected in sub-optimal legislation and regulation for the sector.
“This friendship group will ensure that we start to create an enabling environment for these member-owned firms.”
The formation of the parliamentary friendship group comes after the recent Senate Economics References Committee inquiry into the co-operative, mutual and customer-owned sector of the economy.
“It also follows on from the recent announcement by the treasurer Scott Morrison, of a review of key recommendations of that Senate inquiry, to be undertaken by Greg Hammond OAM,” Morrison said.
Hammond will be consulting with the industry into the ability for CMEs to raise capital through a number of new financial instruments.
Morrison said co-operatives and mutuals were mature and advanced businesses.
“Co-operatives and mutuals have been around in the Australian economy for a very long time. They aren’t just the small co-op corner store that some people think of. They are mature and advanced businesses, employing and investing in local economies, and exporting to the world,” she said.
“They wouldn’t have such a significant place in the Australian economy if they hadn’t grown.
“The formation of the group is vital because it links up the work that has been done with the senate inquiry and the fact that it was bipartisan support of the recommendations. [This] shows that this engagement is not just platitudes but real support and an increased awareness from political leaders on all sides.
“We need to continue the work laid down by the Senate in making the environment better for co-operatives.
“We have certainly set ourselves the goal of seeing as many ticks against the ledger of the 17 recommendations of the [Senate] inquiry within this parliament because a lot of it is what we might call ‘low hanging fruit’ and a lot of those recommendations are about tidying up untidy regulatory and legislative matters and cutting some red tape.”
Morrison said a lot of the work on the recommendations had already happened within the current parliament.
“We also hope that we might see the proposed reforms to the Corporations Act happen within this parliament but we have got to go through this process of engaging with the inquiry around that first,” she said.
“I think we will definitely see the regulatory environment improve and the recognition and ongoing education goes to the very fact that there has been a parliamentary group established for the first time.
“The co-chairs of that are very interesting people from different sides of the political spectrum but they unite around the support for this type of business but we might even see legislative reforms thats is recommended.”
She said the Parliamentary Friends of Mutuals and Co-operatives Group would provide a forum for members and senators to meet and interact with organisations on matters relating to mutuals and co-operatives.
Parliamentary friendship groups are formally recognised by the presiding parliamentary officers with recognition lasting for the term of the parliament.
There are currently 54 friendship groups in the current parliament ranging from issues covering disability, carers, multiculturalism, indigenous issues, cancer and sporting groups.