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1998 National Co-operative Conference

More than 70 delegates, representing major Australian co-operatives, state co-operative federations and a number of Federal Government agencies attended the two-day Co-operatives Council of Australia (CCA) conference in Canberra on 20-21 April 1998.

The aim of the conference was to let federal politicians and government officials know about the co-operative movement and the issues around business tax reform.

The speakers included parliamentary representatives of all major political parties, representatives of business and community co-operatives, and the conference's major sponsor, legal firm Corrs Chambers Westgarth.

South Australian Liberal Senator Alan Ferguson spoke about the benefits of taxation reform. He referred to the Ralph Review of Business Taxation and pointed out that it was an independent review and was not government policy.

Senator Ron Boswell said the National Party is fully committed to supporting co-operatives. He discussed the increasing pressures of concentrated market power and corporate agricultural marketing on the primary producer, saying that co-operatives remained the only vehicle whereby the producer can retain control over their industry and their income. The Senator also highlighted the importance of co-operatives to rural and regional economies.

The Shadow Minister for Small Business and Tourism, Joel Fitzgibbon, told delegates that while the Opposition held no formal position on the abolition of Division 9 of the Income Tax Assessment Act, he saw no reason why the Labor Party would change its position of 1996, when it opposed the repeal of section 120(1)(c) of the Income Tax Assessment Act in the Senate.

Australian Democrats' Senator John Woodley outlined the Democrats positive support for co-operative and mutual enterprises. Senator Woodley referred to their role in saving section 120(1)(c) in 1996 and expressed the Democrats interest in working with the CCA on getting a fairer tax outcome for co-operatives.

The other speakers were Graham Blight, director of Ricegrowers Co-operative and former president of the National Farmers Federation; Professor Bob Fagan from Macquarie University; Neville Younghusband, chairman of Netco Grain Co-operative; Ron Stone, CEO Ballarat Community Education Centre Co-operative; Dr. John Swindells, CEO Mackay Sugar Co-operative; and Britt Maxwell of Corrs Chambers Westgarth.

The speakers covered a number of topics including value adding, the social and economic benefits of co-operatives, demutualisation pitfalls, role of a community co-operative and taxation.

Delegates also attended a cocktail party at Parliament House with members of the Senate. The Communications Minister, Senator Richard Alston, welcomed delegates on behalf of the Federal Government. The 30 senators who attended the function took the opportunity to discuss co-operative issues with delegates, including business tax reform.

Source: National Co-op Update No 21, May/June 1999

      Tax reform proposals threaten co-op lifeblood, National Coop Update, 1998
      First submission to Ralph Taxation Review, Co-operatives Council of Australia Inc., 1998
      Second submission to Ralph Taxation Review, Co-operatives Council of Australia Inc., 1999
      Taxation Update, National Coop Update, 1999
      Battlelines drawn on Business Tax Reform, National Coop Update, 1999
      Update on business tax reform, National Coop Update, 2000