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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 9 Hansard (21 August) . . Page.. 2637 ..

Thursday, 22 August 2002

The Assembly met at 10.30 am.

(Quorum formed.)

MR SPEAKER (Mr Berry) took the chair and asked members to stand in silence and pray or reflect on their responsibilities to the people of the Australian Capital Territory.

Cooperatives Bill 2002

Mr Stanhope, pursuant to notice, presented the bill and its explanatory memorandum.

Title read by Clerk.

MR STANHOPE (Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Health, Minister for Community Affairs and Minister for Women) (10.33): I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

Mr Speaker, a cooperative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise. Cooperatives are user-owned businesses. Cooperative organisations are recognised in over 100 countries. In Australia a cooperative is an incorporated body, generally registered under state or territory law.

The current ACT legislation regulating cooperative societies was made at the commencement of World War II, more than 60 years ago. While often amended, many of the amendments today appear to have been done on the run, during the demutualisation frenzy of decades past. The resultant patchwork of provisions has not served the people of the ACT well. The existing act has gradually fallen into general disuse. There are only three local cooperatives registered under the existing law.

This is an unfortunate state-in other jurisdictions, cooperatives are a commonly used form of community or business platform. For example, in Victoria, there are more than 1,000 cooperative societies with total assets of more than $150 million. Many of these cooperatives are set up for the purpose of community advancement and trading. Some are engaged in community settlement and primary production activities. Apart from rural industries, cooperative activity in other states ranges across childcare, housing, community radio, service-group federations and many other groups that provide services to the community. In comparison, the existing ACT law has clearly failed to meet the needs of the community. Accordingly, the government is pleased to see this measure considered by the Assembly.

There have been a number of attempts in Australia and the ACT to review the current legislative arrangements for cooperatives. General consideration as to the consistency of cooperatives legislation around Australia has been discussed at ministerial level since 1990. The consultation has been wide ranging and many industry suggestions are incorporated into the bill. More recently, in March 2000, the former government tabled

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