Australia’s Business Council for Cooperatives and Mutuals (BCCM) has proposed a three-year scheme to support new co-ops, attract investment and innovation, and build on existing collaborations in the sector.
The Thriving Regions region co-operatives activation programme is detailed in BCCM’s Budget submission to the Treasury. BCCM argues that a greater focus on the mutual and co-op sector would have both short and long-term benefits.
In the submission, it calls on the federal government to:
• build regional clusters for economic development around groups of strong co-operatives and mutuals
• grow medium and larger-sized co-ops, particularly in manufacturing and finance
• help SMEs become more profitable and competitive through existing and new co-operatives
• facilitate access to investment finance
Chief executive Melina Morrison said: “People and businesses have been moving to the regions as a result of the pandemic, generating economic and social value.
“It will be important to lock that value in for the benefit of the regions where the growth is taking place.”
According to BBCM, Australia’s co-ops and mutuals have a joint turnover of AU$35bn. Ms Morrison says the sector can also boost the country’s manufacturing businesses.
“We should be growing existing manufacturing businesses and re-establishing a larger mid-sized business sector to produce more finished goods onshore,” she added.
“Filling in the missing middle of Australian manufacturing can be achieved through co-operatives,” she said. “By working together in co-operatives, individuals and SMEs can accelerate expansion, build capacity in regional supply chains while also contributing to local economic recovery.
“Co-operatives would support growth and resilience in a range of sectors including food and beverage manufacturing, as well as renewable energy, retail, banking, housing and community services.”
Another sector where co-ops and mutuals can help is agriculture.
“Co-operatives recycle value within regions at a significantly higher rate,” said Ms Morrison. “This efficient local multiplier effect amplifies stimulus efforts.
“The co-operative model is an under-utilised economic development strategy that allows communities and business owners in the regions to pool their resources, knowledge and market access.”