• Superannuation fund investment in housing welcome
  • Co-operative model should be considered as part of affordable housing solution
  • Nation building role for mutuals in rollout of EV infrastructure
  • Government battery rollout an inclusive measure for Australia’s energy transition

The peak body for Australia’s $34.4 billion co-operative and mutual sector has welcomed measures in the Federal Budget aimed at building a more resilient and inclusive economy.

The Chief Executive Officer of the Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals, Melina Morrison, applauded the decision to embrace alternative solutions to the residential housing crisis by encouraging superannuation funds to allocate greater investment to the sector.

“We have long advocated the need for greater diversity and choice in housing options to ensure more Australians are able to enjoy the security that comes with home ownership,” Ms Morrison said.

“To that end, we continue to encourage the Federal Government to also consider co-operative housing models as part of the solution to improving access to housing, particularly for low to middle income earners.

“We need only look to the examples in overseas markets, such as Zurich, Switzerland where 45 per cent of housing stock is co-operatively owned, to see the social and economic benefits of introducing greater choice into the housing market.

“We welcome more affordable rental options whilst recognising that Australians are looking for the long-term security that equity facilitates. Co-operative housing offers limited and shared equity models that give people a fair go, and a stake in their future housing as well as something to pass on to the next generation.”

“Housing co-operatives have the benefits of long-term tenancies and democratic member control which builds a sense of place and commitment,” said Ms Morrison.

Research has found that housing co-operatives can deliver benefits to members and the wider community through increased social capital, housing quality and stability, health and well-being.

The BCCM also praised the Budget commitment of up to $200 million on disaster planning and resilience initiatives through the Disaster Ready Fund.

“The floods throughout western NSW and Victoria in recent weeks are a stark reminder of the impacts on our regional communities of extreme weather events,” Ms Morrison said.

“Co-operatives and mutuals are often on the front line of these disasters due to their local community knowledge and for this reason, have a vital role to play in future disaster and resilience planning.”

Ms Morrison said the Budget focus on building greater self-reliance for Australia’s supply chains through investment in local manufacturing such as that provided by the $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund was also a welcome move.

“The recent experience of the pandemic, of natural disasters and geopolitical turmoil such as the war in Ukraine have highlighted the importance of achieving greater Australian national self-reliance through more Australian ownership and control in the national interest, across a range of sectors,” she said.

“We are particularly pleased that co-ops and mutuals are eligible to apply for funding under the National Reconstruction Fund

Ms Morrison also noted the Federal budget commitment to a more sustainable future through initiatives such as the $275.4 million Driving the Nation Fund which will invest in cheaper and cleaner transport.

This includes a $39.8 million investment to establish a National Electronic vehicle charging network to deliver 117 fast charging stations on highways across Australia in partnership with the motoring organisation, NRMA, one of Australia’s biggest mutuals.

“Mutuals have historically played a major role in nation building and it is pleasing to see the NRMA, one of our largest member owned organisations, partnering with government to drive the development of critical infrastructure essential to moving to a lower carbon economy,” Ms Morrison said.

“Mutuals are the right private sector partner where investment is needed in services and well maintained infrastructure to benefit the community rather than shareholders.”

The Government will provide $224.3 million over 4 years to deploy 400 community batteries nationally to lower bills, cut emissions and reduce pressure on the electricity grid by allowing households to store the excess power they produce.

“This is an opportunity for communities, home-owners and renters as well to have a stake in the upside of Australia’s energy transition,” said Ms Morrison.  “Australians living in cities and rental accommodation have already proven they want to invest in renewable energy through co-operatives like Haystacks, a co-operative where people buy a share in a solar battery development.”

“The $15b commitment to “a future made in Australia” is another nation-building area for co-operatives to shine as businesses that operate and are taxed locally,” Ms Morrison said. “Co-operatives train and employ local people securing the high skilled workforce of tomorrow. Small businesses that use co-operatives to collaborate for scale, and supply chain control, benefit from the business model, as does the community and local economy where 100 per cent of the profits are reinvested.

Co-operatives and mutuals are member owned businesses that exist for the benefit of their members rather than external shareholders. They include household names such as Norco, NRMA and HCF and directly employ 76,000 people. Eight out of every 10 Australians are members of at least one co-op or mutual.

For an overview of key measures by sector/industry read the BCCM’s detailed Budget Summary.