Senator McGrath promotes “social enterprise” business model

Queensland senator James McGrath has lauded business models that have social development – including skills training and job creation - as a priority.

Senator McGrath, whose office is in Nambour on the Sunshine Coast, which experiences significant social and employment challenges, noted such social enterprises focused on improving “community well-being through the application of free-market business principles”.

“Rather than merely aiming to maximise profits – though still important – social enterprises focus on how their business activities can be directed towards facilitating social change and development,” Senator McGrath told the Senate in a speech late Thursday night.

He noted that such enterprises helped boost jobs and investment, but the most important benefits were the related social outcomes.

“The benefits of employment – dignity, self-reliance, confidence, and skills development – provide a platform for new migrants, the long-term unemployed and other disengaged individuals to enter the workforce,” he said.

“By tailoring hiring policies to actively target these members of the community, social enterprises help to break down barriers and improve social cohesion.”

Senator McGrath noted social enterprises had grown 37% in five years to 20,000 organisations in Australia, producing $22-billion in goods and services – equal to 3% of GDP. He noted that 57% of social enterprises reported they reinvested profits into building their businesses and extending their positive reach.

In his speech, he highlighted Logan business Access Community Services, which had launched driver training to help the unemployed deal with public transport shortfalls, and later diversified into a real estate agency, a café, a virtual op shop, and gardening and waste management services.   

"This approach again highlights the unique benefits of the social enterprise model,” Senator McGrath said.

“Not only does each business provide employment and training to new migrants and other clients, but the profits generated can then be put towards supporting Access’s other youth, employment and training, and settlement programs.”