The Ministerial Council on Consumer Affairs has released an exposure draft Co-operatives National Law for all States and Territories for comment.
The proposed Co-operatives National Law will replace separate co-operatives legislation in each State and Territory with a single uniform national law. The plan is that New South Wales will enact the national law in 2010. Other States and Territories will then have 12 months to apply the national law or enact consistent legislation.
The proposed Cooperatives National Law will not require incorporation of cooperatives under the Corporations Act 2001 but will ensure that the provisions of the Corporations Act which are relevant to cooperatives are applied and modified consistently across State and Territories in an accessible manner.
It will also establish a framework for supervising cooperatives which facilitates nationally uniform administration and which incorporate provision for enforceable undertakings consistent with current practice in consumer protection.
According to the Regulatory Impact Statement:
- As of September 2009 there were 1,726 cooperatives registered across Australia. Three quarters of these cooperatives are established as non-profit entities and have rules which prevent them from distributing any surplus to their members. The remaining quarter distribute surpluses to their members and are known as distributing cooperatives or trading cooperatives.
- Most cooperatives in Australia are small organisations in terms of turnover and assets. Approximately 98 per cent of cooperatives have annual revenue of less than $25 million and 99 per cent have assets of less than $12.5 million. There are a very small number of cooperatives which have assets in excess of $100 million, with most mainland States having at least one large manufacturing or agricultural cooperative. Nearly all cooperatives operate in just one jurisdiction. Less than one percent of cooperatives operate across borders.