On 2 March 2015, the Senate referred the following matters to the
Economics Reference Committee for inquiry and report by 14 May 2015.
- the role, importance, and overall performance of cooperative, mutual and
member-owned firms in the Australian economy;
the operations of cooperatives and mutuals in the Australian economy,
with particular reference to:
current barriers to innovation, growth, and free competition,
the impact of current regulations, and
comparisons between mutual ownership and private sale of publicly held
assets and services; and
any related matters.
On 24 March 2015, the Senate granted an extension to the committee to
report by 30 November 2015. On 7 September 2015, the Senate granted the committee
a further extension to report by 26 February 2016. On 30 November 2015, the
Senate granted the committee a further extension to report by 17 March 2016.
Conduct of the inquiry
The committee received 60 submissions, as listed in Appendix 1.
The committee held three public hearings in Sydney, Melbourne and
Canberra. The witnesses are listed in Appendix 2.
Structure of the report
The report addresses the committee's terms of reference and is divided
into four chapters:
Chapter one (this chapter) states the administrative arrangements
for the inquiry;
Chapter two defines the concepts and issues discussed in the
Chapter three discusses the broad issues facing the cooperative
and mutuals sector, examines the perceived recognition and establishment barriers
faced by organisations in the sector; and
Chapter four concludes the report and considers regulation and
access to capital.
Term of reference (b)(iv) - Comparisons between mutual ownership and
private sale of publicly held assets and services
The inquiry's terms of reference ask the committee to compare mutual
ownership of publicly held assets to the private sale of those assets. During
the course of the inquiry, the committee did not receive enough evidence on
this issue that would allow it to undertake a comparative analysis of the
preferred model for management of publicly held assets. However, the committee
did receive submissions from BCCM and a small number of other mutual
enterprises recommending the Public Service Mutual (PSM) model as a possible
vehicle for the delivery of public services. The Community and Public Sector
Union (CPSU) argued against the prospect referring to experiences in the United
As such, while the report does consider opportunities for co-operative
and mutual enterprises, and some of these will be in areas that could be
considered traditional public services, it does not address this term of
Notes on references
References to submissions in this report are to individual
submissions received by the committee and published on the committee's website.
References to the committee Hansards are to the official transcripts from
The committee thanks the many individuals and organisations that made
written submissions, as well as those who gave evidence at the public hearings.
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