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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 13 Hansard (19 November) . . Page.. 3715..


Cooperatives Bill 2002

Debate resumed from 22 August 2002 on motion by Mr Stanhope:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MR STEFANIAK (12.07): Mr Speaker, the legislation which currently regulates cooperative societies was made at the commencement of World War II, quite a long time ago. It has been amended and many of those amendments, as with some other pieces of legislation, do appear to have been made in a rather ad hoc fashion. A lot of them were made during the demutualisation period of decades past.

There has been a patchwork of provisions which have not necessarily served the people of the ACT as well as they could. Accordingly, the act fell into general disuse. At present, I understand, there are only three local cooperatives registered under the law. Cooperatives are a much more common feature in other jurisdictions. There have been a number of attempts recently in Australia, including the ACT, as the Chief Minister indicates in his speech, to review legislative arrangements for cooperatives and the consistency of legislation round Australia has been discussed at a ministerial level since about 1990. The discussion has been wide ranging and many industry representatives have been included in it.

In March 2000 the former government brought in the Cooperatives Bill 2000. Some of the issues raised in that were taken up. The debate on the bill was adjourned at the time. A second bill was introduced in August 2001, but the legislation was not debated then. The bill was to be debated, I think, very close to the end of the sittings, but there was a whole swag of bills for debate and we did not get round to that one. It was not delayed because of any particular problems with that legislation. Indeed, it has been incorporated into this bill.

Some concerns were raised in 2001 in relation to the possibility of the then bill having some detrimental effect in relation to competition policy. That was a cause of concern then. I have made some inquiries in relation to that and have been advised by JACS that those concerns have all been taken into account in the piece of legislation currently before the Assembly. Also, some concerns were raised in relation to scrutiny of bills matters on those previous occasions and those concerns have been taken into account in the current piece of legislation.

I note that this bill was introduced in August. I was searching recently for the government's response to the comments of the scrutiny of bills committee in August. It has only just been received. I think that that is being a bit tardy. The responses have been quite good in terms of other pieces of legislation and they have been of assistance to the committee. I doubt that other members have them because I only received them just before the Assembly was due to sit today. It being 19 November and the scrutiny of bills report being of August of this year, some three months ago, there has been time for the response to be made.

Nevertheless, I do note in a more positive vein that the comments made by the scrutiny of bills committee have been taken on board. I understand that the government will be proposing some amendments as a result thereof which the opposition will support. But


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