Australian National Co-operatives
National co-operatives are a relatively new phenomenon in Australia. Until the
co-operatives generally operated within state borders. In 1996, most Australian
territory governments signed an agreement to adopt a
national scheme for Australian co-operatives law.
Australia is a federation of six states, two territories and a national
government. Until 1990's,
legislation governing Australian corporations including
co-operatives was administered by state governments.
In 1990, the federal
Corporations Act replaced state companies law, with the Australian Securities
and Investments Commission (ASIC) becoming the regulator
Co-operatives, however, are still governed by state and territory
co-operatives law and are regulated by state/territory agencies.
In 1986, the Australian Agricultural Council's Working Party on Agricultural
Co-operatives recommended that consideration be given to
establishing uniform co-operatives legislation throughout
Australia after identifying that legislative inconsistencies between the
states created barriers to the development of internationally competitive
national agricultural co-operatives.
At the time, there were 10 disparate pieces of state and
governing co-operatives, from the NSW
Co-operation Act 1923
the South Australian
Co-operatives Act 1983.
Most co-operatives law did not provide for the
recognition of interstate co-operatives or allow the merger of
co-operatives across state borders.
Co-operatives were also subject to restrictions which inhibited recruiting
members and issuing securities in another
In 1990, the Agricultural Council referred the matter to the Standing Committee
of Attorneys General (SCAG), which established a working party to review
to implement a national scheme for co-operatives law.
In 1996, SCAG and
the Ministerial Council of Corporations agreed that the best way to achieve
uniform legislation was an intergovernmental agreement incorporating "core"
legislative provisions which would be consistent across all jurisdictions.
1996 Co-operatives Laws Agreement
In 1996, commonwealth, state and
territory governments (except Western Australia) signed the Co-operatives Laws
Agreement, which was based around a number of "core consistent provisions"
agreed to by the governments after extensive consultation with the Australian
Victorian Co-operatives Act 1996
formed the basis of the Co-operatives Laws Agreement, and by 2002 all states
territories except Western Australia had adopted the "core consistent
the Victorian law.
Some states chose
to retain certain provisions from preceeding legislation (Co-operatives
Council and CCU's
in NSW and government guarantee co-operatives in Victoria), which weren't
agreeable to the other jurisdictions.
differences, the scheme
achieved about 95% consistency between co-operatives legislation
By 2012, over 20 co-operatives operated in jurisdictions
outside their state of registration. A number carry on business in more than 2
Co-operatives National Law
In 2007, the Ministerial Council on Consumer Affairs, now called the
Legislative & Governance Forum on Consumer Affairs,
agreed to fully
nationally uniform legislation for Australian co-operatives.
Co-operatives National Law (CNL)
is a uniform set of state/territory laws
which replaces existing co-operatives legislation enacted under the 1996
Co-operatives Laws Agreement. CNL continues the
main features of the former Victorian
Co-operatives Act while removing remaining
differences between state
and territory legislation.
CNL updates some
provisions, particularly those which apply parts of the federal Corporations Act
2001, and removes the additional registration and notification requirements for
co-operatives operating across state/territory borders. CNL also addresses
competitive disadvantages that purport to
comparison to companies by reducing the annual reporting requirements for small
The introduction and operation of the Co-operatives National Law is being
managed through the
Australian Uniform Co-operative Laws Agreement
made between state and territory governments in 2010. Each state and territory
agreed to pass a template law or an alternative consistent law as a law of its
Administration of the uniform laws will continue to be the responsibility of
each state and territory but with a commitment to achieve uniform
administrative processes and policies.
The agreement provided that New South Wales be the lead state in enacting CNL
and in May 2012, the Co-operatives (Adoption of National Law)
Act 2012 (NSW) passed the NSW parliament. Other states are progressively
adopting Co-operatives National Law in their jurisdictions.
For the purposes of this directory, a national co-operative carries on business
least three Australian states and territories. The state of incorporation of
the co-operative is listed within the
Genetics Australia Co-operative Ltd
Northern Herd Development Co-operative Ltd
The Australian Wine Consumers Co-operative Society Ltd
University Co-operative Bookshop Ltd
Australian Travel Agents Co-operative Ltd
Independent Toy Specialists of Australia Co-operative Ltd
Master Butchers Co-operative Ltd
Plumbers Supplies Co-operative Ltd
Tertiary Access Group Co-operative Ltd
Australian Valuers Institute Co-operative Ltd
RPH Australia Co-operative Ltd
1. Report of the Working Party for the Standing Committee on Agriculture,
Australian Agricultural Council, 1988.
2. Co-operatives Law Report, Western Australian Parliamentary Standing Committee
on Uniform Legislation and Intergovernmental Agreements, 1998.