Page 780 - Week 03 - Tuesday, 21 March 2017

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As mentioned on presentation of the bill, the Co-operatives National Law is set out as an appendix to the New South Wales Co-Operatives (Adoption of National Law) Act 2012. I also mentioned in my introduction to the bill that our cooperatives act and regulation are based on the now repealed New South Wales act and regulation. It makes sense that our cooperatives continue to be subject to the same requirements that exist over the border and that we take advantage of nationally uniform law for the benefit of interstate cooperatives who wish to carry on a business here in the territory.

New South Wales has led the development of the uniform Co-operatives National Law, and New South Wales was the first jurisdiction to replace its scheme with the uniform Co-operatives National Law. While Queensland has not made nationally consistent legislation, each other state and the Northern Territory has progressively made legislation to either acquire the Co-operatives National Law in their jurisdiction or, in the case of Western Australia, to make legislation consistent with it.

The ACT agreed to progress this reform under the Australian uniform co-operatives laws agreement. By passing this bill today the ACT has fulfilled its obligations under that agreement. As at 1 March 2017 seven local co-operatives were registered in the ACT, providing a range of important services to the community, including affordable health care.

It is important that our small cooperatives are subject to reporting and financial requirements which are fair and balanced. One of the major reforms of the Co-operatives National Law is to simplify reporting and financial requirements for small cooperatives and to recognise that small cooperatives have limited capacity to comply with the more onerous reporting obligations which apply to large cooperatives.

Under the current law small cooperatives, unlike small companies, are subject to the same reporting requirements as large cooperatives. Under the Co-operatives National Law, small cooperatives are only required to provide financial reports to their members. These fairly simple financial reporting requirements are prescribed in the Co-operatives National Regulations, which are provided in the New South Wales regulations. They include the provision of reports such as income and expenditure statements and balance sheets. Small cooperatives will no longer be expected to provide publicly available accounts to the registrar and there will be no need for accounts to be audited.

Small cooperatives will need to provide the registrar with an annual return each year. The annual return must set out the information prescribed in the Co-operatives National Regulations, such as the current name of the cooperative, its registered office address, the names of directors, the date of the last annual general meeting and the date when financial reports were provided to members. Existing cooperatives that have been registered under the Cooperatives Act are taken to be registered under the new act. A local regulation will be made before the commencement date of 1 May 2017 which will make specific provision for existing rules so that these will continue in force.

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