A business summit saw 130 leaders from Australia’s co-operative and mutual enterprises (CMEs) gather on 10 November to discuss how the sector can deliver a stronger Australian economy.
Convened by the sector’s peak body, the Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals (BCCM), the meeting drew chief executives and directors from leading mutuals and co-ops, including NRMA, RACQ, RAC WA, HCF, Australian Unity, CBH Group, Devondale Murray Goulburn, The Co-op, CUA, Bank Australia, Defence Bank and Beyond Bank.
The recent Senate inquiry into the role of co-operatives and mutuals in the economy was also discussed, while speakers included Professor Ian Harper (partner, Deloitte Access Economics), Melina Morrison (CEO, BCCM) and Professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte (University of Sydney), among others.
Co-operatives and mutuals contribute 7% of Australia’s GDP (including the turnover of the member-owned superannuation funds), while CMEs have 14.8 million members (29 million when counting in the member-owned funds). Many Australians are members of more than one CME (the country’s population is 23.7 million), but 8 in 10 Australians are members of at least one co-operative or mutually owned enterprise (79%) compared to the 6.48 million Australians (36%) who own investments listed on the share market.
According to the 2015 National Mutual Economy Report, launched at the summit, the annual turnover of the Top 100 Australian CMEs grew by 14% compared to the previous year. The combined turnover for the Top 100 Australian CMEs for the 2013-2014 financial year was just under AUS$27.9 billion with combined assets of around AUS$111.46 billion.
The report, which was produced by the University of Western Australia in partnership with the BCCM, also stated that 42% of the Top CMEs were in the banking and financial services industry, with 19% in health insurance, 14% in agribusiness and 9% in retailing. Co-operative Bulk Handling Ltd (CBH Group) leads the Top 100 CMEs list, with a turnover of AUS$3.94bn.
The country’s most co-operative state was New South Wales, with 46% of the Top 100 co-operative and mutual enterprises headquartered there, said the report.
In the weeks following the summit, the federal government released its Response to the Competition Policy Review supporting a new set of competition principles to include “choice and diversity of providers in human services”. It also recognised that co-ops and mutuals could play a greater role in delivering human services, meeting productivity and efficiency objectives whilst safeguarding the principles of consumer directed care.
Reacting to the government’s response, BCCM CEO, Melina Morrison said: “The government’s decision to establish a productivity commission review to explore how the principles can be applied in practice to the human services sector is an opportunity to research reforms in different jurisdictions that incorporate principles of choice, competition and contestability including multi stakeholder and consumer-owned co-operatives and staff-led mutuals.”