Page 971 - Week 03 - Thursday, 7 April 2022

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I urge the Assembly to support this motion today, and I thank Mr Davis for drawing this very interesting and worthwhile issue to our attention.

MR BRADDOCK (Yerrabi) (5.11): I rise today to speak in enthusiastic support of Mr Davis’s motion and to promote and celebrate the cooperatives we have here in Canberra. Cooperatives are very important pieces of the puzzle across three of my spokesperson roles for the ACT Greens and this Assembly. As democracy and community engagement spokesperson, I know that cooperatives are a living demonstration of organisational spaces that exist for the people by the people. As workplace health and safety and industrial relations spokesperson, I know that cooperatives model how workers can have power and control over their workspaces, which in turn lifts wages, conditions, job security and worker safety. And as better neighbourhoods spokesperson I am interested in how cooperatives are deeply imbedded in their communities, creating stronger and more resilient place-based networks.

Cooperatives can empower community members to become actively involved in the governance and running of the organisations that affect their everyday lives. Instead of your say in decision making being determined by who you know or how much money you have, cooperatives operate on a model of one person, one vote. An inspiring example of how this structure works comes from Earthworker Cooperative in Victoria. Members were frustrated by the lack of renewable energy and their regions were reliant on fossil fuels for employment. In the absence of any direction from federal climate change policy for a just and sustainable transition they established a cooperative factory manufacturing solar hot water systems. As they say at Earthworker Energy:

Each member has equal voting rights and decisions are made democratically. We have no boss or external shareholders. This means we ensure our workplace is safe, we are invested in the quality of the goods we produce, we make decisions in the interest of our local community and profits are shared equally and locally.

It will also be clear from the Earthworker example that cooperatives are good for workers. At its heart, a fair industrial relations system is about raising the voices of workers and increasing their level of influence and control within workplaces, with the aim of increasing safety, democracy and conditions. This means transforming the current status quo, where employers often have disproportionate power over employees to determine when and how they work, and for how much or, more critically, for how little! By contrast, workers’ control, democracy and equality are built into the cooperative model. This offers a solution to inequality and injustice both in and outside of the workplace.

A study of 40 cooperatives of domestic workers from around the world show that cooperatives provide their members with higher wages and better working conditions, as well as with training and personal and professional development. Cooperatives also greatly enrich the social fabric of communities. They make for better neighbours and are particularly important for resilience and recovery during crisis periods. This is because cooperatives are deeply intertwined with the wellbeing of their surrounding neighbours.

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