Earthworker Cooperative Project


Peter Khalil: I’d like to take this opportunity to bring a fantastic initiative to the attention of this place: the Earthworker Cooperative Project, which is a not-for-profit cooperative enterprise that manufactures goods Australia needs for our renewable future, for infrastructure, for energy, for water, for mass transit and for adaptations in land use. I was pleased to meet with Dave Kerrin and a delegation from Earthworker just last year to brief me on the details of their current product line. The goods they manufacture include solar hot water pumps and tank systems and a sodium-nickel-chloride battery which uses non-toxic saltwater as an alternative to lead based lithium batteries, so it is a really wonderful technology. The manufacturing jobs are in the carbon-dependent areas of Australia, such as Morwell, where the first cooperative factory is located. It links into the massive number of recycling jobs now required elsewhere. Earthworker is planning to place recycling cooperatives in the suburbs of major cities throughout Australia, including in my electorate. This has the effect of linking urban and rural communities, uniting them into sharing communities through jobs that support each other.

The products are made in Australia, which is always good, with long warranties that back up the quality of the work, and there is local servicing and maintenance capacity as well. Unions and employers provide joint support for the social use of part of the wage. Where employers participate, it allows workers at workplaces across Australia to direct their wage increases towards purchasing products from the community owned enterprises. They receive an incentive in return for any administrative and management costs. Also, five per cent of any surplus from viable factories will go towards community sector peak body ACOSS to meet the needs of our most vulnerable.

One Earthworker cooperative is already working towards installing solar hot water systems in many Father Bob Maguire houses and into a hospice, as well. A minimum of five per cent Indigenous worker-owners are included in every intake. The Earthworker Cooperative Project has designed a simple approach as part of what they refer to as treaty work. And there’s a minimum five per cent intake of women worker-owners, especially young women, into the trades. These are really practical ways to address some of the historical imbalances we’ve seen in those trade areas.

The Earthworker model is really a fantastic one. It provides a far more flexible and responsive economy, better balancing our response to climate change, in the way they go about it. I commend the work of the Earthworker Cooperative to date and look forward to working with them to support their ongoing development.