Labor's Plan For Inclusive Ownership & Inclusive Growth: Cooperatives And Mutual Enterprises

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A Shorten Labor Government will support Australia’s Cooperative and Mutual Enterprises sector.

Today in Australia, we need initiatives that will build the strength of our communities and increase competition in markets dominated by a few large firms. This holds true for many sectors including banking, agriculture, health care, and insurance.

That’s because social capital – the networks of trust and reciprocity that link multiple individuals together – is declining.

Cooperatives (Co-ops) and mutuals are a flexible structure with the potential to not only create economic value, but also to foster community. There is also evidence that employees in worker-owned firms are more productive and more satisfied, and that such firms have less turnover and enjoy greater staff loyalty.

Co-ops and mutuals face a number of barriers, ranging from access to capital, equal access to grants, and equal treatment for the sector with other firm structures in all areas of the economy.

Labor’s reform proposals build on Labor’s 2016 election commitments which are based on the recommendations of the Senate Economics Committee Inquiry into member-owned firms.

LABOR’S PLAN:

A Shorten Labor Government will support Australia’s Cooperative and Mutual Enterprises sector.

Today in Australia, we need initiatives that will build the strength of our communities and increase competition in markets dominated by a few large firms. This holds true for many sectors including banking, agriculture, health care, and insurance.

That’s because social capital – the networks of trust and reciprocity that link multiple individuals together – is declining.

Cooperatives (Co-ops) and mutuals are a flexible structure with the potential to not only create economic value, but also to foster community. There is also evidence that employees in worker-owned firms are more productive and more satisfied, and that such firms have less turnover and enjoy greater staff loyalty.

LABOR’S PLAN:

Labor will create a Competition and Growth Taskforce to sit within Treasury and include staff from diverse backgrounds including not-for-profits, superannuation and the cooperative and mutuals sector. The Taskforce will work on issues tasked to it by government and undertake independent research and policy development.

The Taskforce would immediately be tasked with:

  • Corporate governance reform, filling the gap left by the abolition of the Corporations and Markets Advisory Committee by the Liberals, who defunded it at the behest of their vested interest mates. The Taskforce would be asked to immediately focus on completing the Annual General Meeting and Shareholder Engagement report that the CAMAC started.
  • Guiding the implementation of the remaining recommendations of the Senate Economics References Committee Inquiry into Co-ops and Mutuals, which primarily involve the coordination of government regulation and information to reflect business plurality.
  • Reviewing national harmonisation of cooperative laws, including exploring the referral of state powers (legislated under the Cooperatives National Law) to the federal government, and bringing cooperatives into the proposed Director Identification Number regime.
  • Making recommendations to government on small business transition policies – particularly in relation to small business owners who wish to sell their business to their employees upon retirement as a worker-owned cooperative.
  • Guiding policy on encouraging employee ownership, including employee share ownership schemes.

The Labor Party committed to ensuring fairer access to capital in 2016, with Parliament later adopting the policy. We will ensure those reforms work as intended.

Labor will give the sector equal access to government grants. Labor believes member-owned firms should be eligible for government grants on an equal footing with other organisations.

The clearest example is the Indigenous Advancement Strategy, which does not allow non-corporations to apply for grants above a certain threshold. Cooperatives are a way for Indigenous collectives to further the goal of self-determination.

The Labor Party committed to ensuring fairer access to capital in 2016, with Parliament later adopting the policy. We will ensure those reforms work as intended.

Labor will give the sector equal access to government grants. Labor believes member-owned firms should be eligible for government grants on an equal footing with other organisations.

The clearest example is the Indigenous Advancement Strategy, which does not allow non-corporations to apply for grants above a certain threshold. Cooperatives are a way for Indigenous collectives to further the goal of self-determination.