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Big Wave of Change Campaign
Rebuilding Trust between People and Government


National Press Club Address “Make It Mutual”, Kevin Andrews, Federal Minister for Family and Community Services
WA Senate Election 5 April: Group M for Mutual
The Mutual State: How local communities can run public services
Community Leadership: Meet Julie Williams
National Press Club Address “Make it Mutual”
Kevin Andrews, Federal Minister for Family and Community Services
17 March 2014
As you know there was a time in Australia when mutualism was the most dynamic social and economic movement.

In the second half of the nineteenth century, Australians, imbued by an egalitarian spirit of pragmatism and independence, pioneered mutuals and friendly societies across the six colonies.Found in every community, these institutions were voluntary and self-regulating. They offered employment, health, funeral and other insurance by pooling small amounts of money or income to protect themselves from the vagaries of economics and happenstance.


It was the height of Australia’s self-insurancing voluntary organisations, composed of committed citizens who came together to address their local community needs.


By the eve of the First World War – precisely 100 years ago – around 400,000 friendly society members helped to fund benefits for over one million Australians. It’s interesting to note that during this same period fewer than 100,000 Australians were receiving benefits from the Commonwealth Government.

However, a technocratic spirit began to take hold in Australia as the nation travelled through the traumas of the Depression and the Second World War.


Typically in Australia, we took our cue from the United Kingdom. In 1941 the ‘Beveridge Report’, the Report of the Inter-Departmental Committee on Social Insurance and Allied Services laid the conceptual foundations for the modern welfare state…

Rather than a confident assertion of supreme state authority, the ‘Beveridge Report’ reflected the virtues of limited government:

“The state in organising security should not stifle incentive, opportunity, responsibility; In establishing a national minimum it should leave room and encouragement for each individual to provide more than that minimum for himself and his family.”


In other words, Lord Beveridge made clear that any new initiatives by government were meant – not to supercede existing social institutions – but to complement and indeed utilise them.

*                             *                             *

Ladies and Gentlemen it pains me to say that over the past seven-plus decades we have strayed somewhat from that principle.

In both Britain and Australia, the Beveridge ideals of a lighter-touch safety net was swept away by an ambitious but bureaucratic welfarism in which social insurance models were replaced by state-run entitlements programmes.

[Above, photo: a mutually owned store in Colac, Victoria, in the 1880s]

Ladies and gentlemen I’ve had a longstanding interest and involvement in civil society.


I’ve served as an official with various sporting organisations, on hospital boards and with social service agencies. It’s this personal experience at the coalface of civil society that forged my views about the critical role of organisations that arise organically from the community in response to human need to the needs that people in local communities perceive.

And those views have only been reinforced by what I’ve seen as a Parliamentarian and Minister over the past 20-plus years.

Over those two decades I’ve seen communities – both Indigenous and non-Indigenous – where the basic structures of civilised society have eroded – and even collapsed:

  • Places afflicted by dire poverty where women and children are at constant risk of violence.
  • Places where dependency is the rule and self-sufficiency the exception.
  • Places where most people are employed are on the public or not-for-profit payroll;
  • Places where the last vestiges of individual initiative have evaporated, leaving behind the social residue of hopelessness and despair.

It’s these cumulative observations that have forged my views about the capacity and limitations of government.

And I’ve generally concluded that while certain core functions of government are indispensible, we should strive to minimise the institutional footprint of the state wherever and whenever possible.

*                                             *                                             *

Rather than a cumbersome ‘top-down’ ‘government-knows-best’ approach that smacks of patronising paternalism, we believe in bottom-up, grass roots enterprise…

We believe in adept and adroit not-for-profit organisations that can adapt to changing circumstances and evolving needs.

We believe that no-one knows local communities better than local community members.

They have the best grasp on the problems in their backyard and how to best address them.

*                                             *                                             *


The co-operative and mutual sector has tremendous potential to foster innovative modes and methods of addressing the unmet needs of our society.


They also have untapped reserves to help Australian society arising from the challenges we face today including:

  • An ageing population
  • The delivery of advanced health services
  • The social and economic exclusion of people with disabilities
  • Addressing housing supply
  • The imbalance between taxpayers and welfare recipients; and
  • Building a more dynamic economy as well as greater community capacity.

So I look forward to working with you as we seek to develop the most effective and efficient ways of meeting the social and economic challenges of Australia in the 21st century.

*                                             *                                             *

Ladies and Gentlemen our governing philosophy is informed by a few humble truths:

  • First that Government is NOT the fount of all wisdom;
  • Secondly that a vibrant, dynamic economy and business community are essential to fund the social services we need, expect and deserve; and
  • Thirdly that voluntary mutual co-operation is crucial force to building a responsive and vibrant civil society.

 *                             *                             *

We also intend to abolish the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission (ACNC), a body that simply generates precisely the sort of useless red tape that this Government is trying to eliminate – as promised… We see no reason for this Government to reinvent an already smoothly turning wheel.

And this same ‘bottom-up’ principle is also the motivating force behind our decision to set up a National Centre for Excellence for Civil Society.


The Centre will support the wide range of organisations that make up civil society – regardless of size, type or their mission. Its ambit will include charities, clubs and associations that focus on social welfare, the arts, environment, health, medical research, animal welfare, education and so on. And the Centre’s mandate will encompass both organisations that receive government funding and smaller local community groups that get little or no direct government support.


A one-size-fits-all attitude can never work because the needs in the tiny rural hamlet of Fitzroy Falls, New South Wales are vastly different from the needs in inner-urban Fitzroy, Victoria.”

For the full text of this address go to

WA Senate Election 5 April: Group M for Mutual

Anthony Fels will be our WA Senate candidate in the re-run of the Senate election on 5 April.

Anthony is a former Liberal MP in the WA Parliament, elected in 2005. He was a spokeperson for small business and consumer affairs. He left the Liberal Party in 2007 and sat as an independent until 2009. He was a moderate within the Liberal Party, who parted over the influence of the hard right.Anthony grew up on a family farm east of Esperance. He attended Castletown Primary School and Esperance Senior High School, before studying agriculture at the University of WA. His interests are in the area of small business, agriculture, and the future of rural communities.

Anthony is keen to hear from WA people who want to be involved in establishing our WA branch of the Mutual Party to participate in future state and local government elections.

About 1% of the vote will be enough to have Anthony elected to the Senate. This is because we have secured good preference arrangements with other groups (there are 34 groups participating), based on Anthony’s broad networks and our positioning as a centrist party in the middle of  the spectrum.

We want the support of conservative people who value communities and strong values, and we want the support of left-leaning people who support the disadvantaged and battlers. Anthony’s networks include both groups, across the traditional spectrum.

To support Anthony and become involved in WA,  please contact Adrian Bradley at

To make a donation to support Anthony’s election, go to

The Mutual Party’s website is at The Mutual State. How local communities can run public services
Ed Mayo and Henrietta Moore
New Economics Foundation UK

“The debate between public and private ownership is going nowhere fast. But there is real energy and innovation in what we call social ownership, non-profit co-operative and voluntary sector models for running public services. They show how to put the public back into public services.Public service reform is top of the political agenda. Without fresh ideas, the obituary for the welfare state will read, “Fondly remembered – Failed to deliver”. There will be nowhere for the public sector to go except the corrosive route of break-up, privatisation, confusion and citizens’ distrust.  There is, however, a new vision for government, based not on serving citizens but on co-operating with them.

The idea is simple. Citizens, on their own or coming together at a neighbourhood or some other level, play a key role in the design and delivery of public services.

We call this the Mutual State. It draws on a long history of mutual approaches that enlist people as partners rather than users. But it recreates a new form of mutuality focused on participation and social entrepreneurship rather than conventional ownership.

This pocketbook describes the new mutuality and sets out the vision of government it embodies.

A full programme of mutualisation, the report says, would start with public services that have clearly failed. It would focus on smaller-scale organisations, such as schools or hospitals, with ‘populations’ of 400-600 people. The National Health Service (NHS) could be ‘de-merged’ into a MHS (Mutual Health Service) built on smaller, more manageable self-governing mutuals. The exceptional record of tenant-owned or managed housing should be recognised. Local education authorities should be reformed as ‘secondary mutuals’.


1 The Battle for Public Services
2 The Mutual Idea
3 Pioneering a New Model
4 Participation, Decentralisation, Professionalism
5 The New Mutualism in Practice
6 Mutualising The State – A Summary

“Five key elements should form part of the “mutualisation” of public services:


A participation audit.

This would look at the lessons from community involvement and draw up guidelines for the future. New initiatives could include elections to hospital trusts, user panels for local authority services and designating individual, named, policemen as contacts for streets or neighbourhoods.


Local authorities should be recast as smaller, strategic units, overseeing the co-ordination and accountability of local services. They would use their powers to “build capacity” for public workers and citizens, enabling them to run services mutually. Public institutions such as schools and prisons should be given greater autonomy – more direct funding, greater freedom of financial management – within a framework which sets down standards on quality.


A recognised status for mutuals.


This would mean creating a clearer and stronger legal framework for “social enterprises, including limits on demutualization and new powers to raise finance such as local bonds, and a quality mark”, which sets out ways of involving stakeholders and ensuring accountability. In Italy, social enterprises of this form have grown in number by 40% since a new status was launched.


Conversion of public services.

Selected state services should “migrate” to the new mutual status through a recognised approval process. One important ingredient of this is a staff ballot.


Re-imagining the state.


The state would act as guarantor, funding and regulating the mutual service providers. The National Audit Office role would shift from straightforward inspection to enabling – equipping stakeholders with the skills to “self-audit”. Tax funding for the new mutuals would be supplemented by social investment from citizens.”

Community leadership: Meet Julie Williams

Julie Williams is the emerging face of community leadership in Australia.Julie is Deputy Mayor of the City of Darebin. She has been a Councillor since 2012. She decided to stand for her local council after winning a major Victorian Civic and Administrative Tribunal court hearing which stopped six and seven storeys becoming the benchmark for development along Plenty Road in Melbourne’s congested northern suburbs.

She is committed to setting new standards in community representation and providing a voice for communities.

Julie lives in Preston and is a parent of a four year old daughter with autism. She is passionate about representing children and families and wants to be a voice for the 20% of people with a disability and their families and carers, some of the most invisible and disadvantaged people in the community.

Julie will stand as a candidate for the MutualParty in the lower house seat of Preston in Victoria’s state election in November 2014.

To support Julie go to


We want community people like Julie to stand as parliamentary candidates in coming Victorian, NSW and Queensland state elections as part of a Big Wave of Change in Australian politics.


Further information

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