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Wednesday, 10 October 1984
Page: 1552

Senator FOREMAN —My question is directed to the Minister for Industry and Commerce. I refer to an article in the Australian Municipal Journal dealing with worker-owned and worker-controlled business. Is the Minister aware of the benefits to be gained by the establishment of worker co-operatives in the area of job generation? Does the Minister know that in the United States of America during the last decade about 5,000 employee ownership plans have been established with about three million participants? Will the Government look at ways to encourage this development in Australia so that the Australian Labor Party's excellent record of job creation can be sustained in the years to come?

Senator BUTTON —Senator Foreman was kind enough to indicate to me that he was going to ask this question. I have referred to the article which Senator Foreman mentioned. On the basis of that article I make the comment that some local employment initiatives, including worker co-operatives, have the potential to provide a valuable economic and social response to the needs and aspirations of many unemployed people. Senator Foreman, in his question, identified particularly the question of international experience. I add to what was implied in his question that these experiments have been successful not only in the United States but also, for example in the Basque area of Spain, where some 17, 000 people are employed in worker co-operatives. Similar initiatives have now taken place in the United Kingdom and Canada as well as other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries. The Department of Employment and Industrial Relations is monitoring these initiatives through participation in the local employment initiatives program of the OECD.

The issue of Federal Government assistance to a range of initiatives such as worker co-operatives and other forms of less conventionally organised small enterprises has been under active consideration by a number of government departments within the wider context of local employment initiatives. However, before the Government determines any specific program of assistance further public discussion and consultation will need to take place with State governments and other interested parties. In particular the development of further initiatives requires detailed consideration by the Government of the various legal, financial, social and administrative aspects involved. That is an ongoing process.