Page 779 - Week 03 - Tuesday, 21 March 2017

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Minister Ramsay also mentioned housing. Cooperative housing has a long, long history in Australia and elsewhere. In Denmark about 10 per cent of new housing is what is called co-housing, which is basically cooperative housing where facilities are shared, as well as decision-making. Strata titles and particularly community titles are a specialised form of housing cooperative in Australia. They are all organisations where each member has a vote per member per unit and they work in a cooperative fashion.

The housing cooperative that I am most familiar with, of course, is Coordination Co-operative at Nimbin, where I had the pleasure of living for 11 years and of which I am still a proud member. That was formed by a bunch of people who went to the festival in Nimbin. We thought it was great and we wanted it to continue; we wanted to create our utopia based on a cooperative lifestyle where everybody has a stake in it and everybody has an equal say in decision-making. Equal say in decision-making is not a necessary part of all cooperatives, but many cooperatives, particularly worker cooperatives, have the situation where you will have one share, one vote per person.

I am a member of another north coast organisation which, while legally structured as a company, is in practical terms a cooperative. Enova is a new electricity distributor. They have organised themselves so that no matter how many shares you have you can have a maximum of five votes, and if you are from outside the region there is a maximum number of shares you can get. Again, they are effectively a cooperative of people on the north coast who will be purchasing electricity from the distributor, and some of them will also be selling electricity to their electricity retailer.

Banking also has a long history of cooperatives. I am a customer of what I think of as bankmecu but which has recently changed its name to Bank Australia. When you joined that you paid $2 and became a shareholder. Australia has many, many banks set up that way where people are part owners of the banking structure.

It is really important that we look at structures apart from the normal company structure, which is usually just based around maximisation of shareholder profits. I agree that is not always the situation and that there are companies, such as ones I have been involved with, Australian Ethical in particular, where their articles seek to do other things. But the normal company just looks at maximising shareholders’ returns.

Cooperatives are set up distinctly to do things in addition to that; they are set up to do things cooperatively for their members. They generally have a good long-term view and they look at the environment and the community which they are in. They are a really important part of the Australian landscape, and I think it is great that we are updating our laws. I commend this bill to the Assembly.

MR RATTENBURY (Kurrajong—Minister for Climate Change and Sustainability, Minister for Justice and Consumer Affairs, Minister for Corrections and Minister for Mental Health) (12.04), in reply: The Co-Operatives National Law (ACT) Bill 2017 repeals the Cooperatives Act 2002 and acquires the Co-operatives National Law as a law of the ACT.

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