Moving Co-operatives and Mutuals into the mainstream is a step towards a level playing field

28 May 2021

The Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals (BCCM) was pleased to see the expansion of Government-recognised business structures to include Co-operatives listed alongside other business structures on the Commonwealth’s business information website

Co-ops now join other business models on the ‘types of business structures’ pages.

CEO of BCCM, Melina Morrison said that with eight in 10 Australians being members of at least one co-operative or member-owned business, it is encouraging to see ongoing progress toward the full implementation of recommendations from the 2016 Senate Economic References Committee Report into Cooperative, mutual and member-owned firms.

“BCCM continues to advocate for co-ops and mutuals to be fairly represented in all areas of business and legislative reform,” Morrison said. “We work to ensure that government and business understand the transformative power of co-operatives and that this potential is not hamstrung by a lack of information, duplicate regulation and unnecessary complexity.

“Yesterday’s development sees co-operatives join the list of recognised business structures such as sole trader, company, partnership, and trust. Moving co-operatives and mutuals into the mainstream is a step towards a level playing field.

“Our thanks to the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources for consulting with BCCM to provide this information to Australians looking to start a co-operative.

“The site now rightfully recognises the co-operative structure as a legally incorporated entity that exists to serve the interests of members. In a co-op, ownership and control is shared equally amongst members – people, businesses, employees or other community stakeholders who work together to achieve a common purpose or outcome.

“This information will assist the dozens of entrepreneurs that contact BCCM every week looking for information about setting up a democratic, purpose-driven, co-operative enterprise with their peers.”

“In recent years, we have seen acknowledgement of mutuals in the Corporations Act; the move to enable capital raising without demutualisation through Mutual Capital Instruments (MCIs); a nationally-harmonised scheme of legislation regulating co-operatives Australia-wide, and increasingly, a voice for co-ops in national economic debates.

“We still have a long way to go to implement the recommendations of the Senate Report into ‘Cooperative, mutual and member-owned firms’. These recommendations are even more pertinent today.

“Economic recovery is dependent on resilient, stable businesses with secure end-to-end supply chains. Co-ops are proven to deliver on all of these counts and for decades, have provided stability to the Australian economy through times of crisis. We want to leverage the immense potential of this business model to help rebuild the Australian economy for generations to come.

“Until we fix the regulatory hurdles in front of co-ops and mutuals, their ability to fully engage in the economy for their members will be hampered.”

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