With the Corporations Amendment (Crowd-sourced Funding) Bill 2015 (CSF Bill) now before the Senate and the recent announcement that the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation (RIRDC) may have a competitor for the $13.8 million funding allocation for research into co-operatives, the industry may be forgiven for thinking that there is little political will to maximise their usage in Australia.
A consistent theme that came out of the Senate inquiry hearings into cooperative, mutual and member-owned firms in Sydney and Melbourne was the challenges of raising capital, the CSF Bill presented an opportunity for co-operatives to be included (and we argued in our series that co-operatives could), but this has not yet occurred. This may be an opportunity missed.
Recently, Hon Barnaby Joyce MP asked Kevin Hogan MP, in the electorate of Page, to also form a taskforce looking at the role of agricultural co-operatives, but only in that electorate. This is even though the RIRDC has already been allocated the funding, reportedly raising concerns that the $13.8 million allocated by the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper to the RIRDC to conduct the pilot program will be given to Southern Cross University, also in his electorate. Meanwhile, there are communities in the Murray Darling Basin who would greatly benefit from development of applications of the co-operative structure in agriculture, especially regarding irrigation and water rights. Perhaps another opportunity missed?
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