Page 969 - Week 03 - Thursday, 7 April 2022
MR RATTENBURY (Kurrajong—Attorney-General, Minister for Consumer Affairs, Minister for Gaming and Minister for Water, Energy and Emissions Reduction) (5.04): I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak today in support of this motion regarding the enhancement of co-operatives in the ACT. This is also an issue that crosses over into some of my portfolio responsibilities. I do have responsibility for the co-operatives act in the ACT, which implements the national law.
I want to start by talking about co-operatives in a broader sense, though. Mr Acting Speaker, you may have heard that Amazon employees on Staten Island in New York have just become the first group of Amazon workers in the US to vote in favour of unionising. Good news; I imagine that we would all agree. It has been a long battle and, without wanting to spend too much time on this, there is still some way to go.
However, it has now emerged that Amazon has plans to ban certain words and phrases on its forthcoming internal employee messaging app. Those words and phrases include profane or inappropriate language, which is fair enough. They also include words like “union”, “pay rise”, “grievance”, “ethics” and “injustice”, which seems to be not quite fair at all. When it comes to the rights of its own workforce, it is clear that Amazon is not on board and it is going to fight the union movement as hard as it can.
I have picked this as an example of our globally broken system because it is current, but I could have chosen literally thousands of other recent news stories to illustrate the growth of wealth inequality, the fraying of the social safety net, the interests of shareholder profits trumping all other concerns, and the unsustainability of so many of the trends we are on, including economic trends. We need something different. We need to redress the balance, close the inequality gap and rethink our priorities as a society—actually, as a species. We need ways to encode values into the operation of commercial enterprises, and more diverse and equitable ways to create viable business structures.
We need a wholesale return to notions of the common good and better ways to measure the health of our economic systems. We need an alternative to the mindless growth imperative that has now brought forward the annual Earth Overshoot Day to 29 July, as of last year; and this year, undoubtedly, it will come even earlier. The laws of physics and nature will simply not allow this trajectory that we are on to continue for much longer.
How do we stop talking about economic growth as the Holy Grail of any government policy? How do we realise an economic system that keeps us within the finite limits imposed by our planet? How do we teach ourselves to value human beings more than we value the labour they perform?
Co-operatives should be part of the answer, and something we foster and facilitate here in the territory. They are owned and controlled by their members and are traditionally based on values of self-help, responsibility and equality.
The motion from Mr Davis today, as presented by Ms Clay, is really important, and I am glad it has been brought forward to the Assembly, because co-operatives are a