Australia Needs a More Dynamic COAG Process

A series of committees established by COAG last week should have tighter reporting timelines and be subject to greater transparency in order to achieve the reform outcomes that are needed to lock in prosperity.

BCA President, Mr Hugh Morgan said the move toward greater cooperation between government leaders at COAG was welcome, as were a number of initial steps in addressing key issues including national competition policy, skills shortages and infrastructure shortfalls.

“Cooperation is one thing – outcomes that address pressing reform issues are another.”

“The BCA supports the concept of committees delegated to continue work agreed to by federal and state leaders, ahead of the next COAG meeting.

“However, we are concerned that their terms of reference and reporting processes do not focus enough on defined outcomes, nor do their timeframes point to any sense of urgency.

Mr Morgan said Australia did not have an unlimited amount of time to put in place a new round of reforms.

Waiting until next year to report to COAG on what will be only initial steps to address these issues was not satisfactory.

“The next 12 to 24 months will be crucial in determining our economic performance over the next 10 years,” he said.

“Infrastructure shortfalls across major population areas, investment curtailed by red tape and skills shortages are all constraints on growth that are occurring today.

‘These issues take a long time to fix and concrete action required to do so needs to start now.”

Mr Morgan said the solution was to improve the accountability and efficiency of decision making at the committee level, and COAG more generally.

“For example, we have yet to hear an explanation as to why a national workplace relations system was rejected in less than a minute at Friday’s meeting,” Mr Morgan said.

 “A national system promises significant improvements in simplifying agreement making for business and employees, and is recognised by most parties, including the federal government, as a key plank in reforming workplace relations.”

“There are many parties, including the BCA, who want to know what the process and timing is from here for implementing a national system.”

Mr Morgan said one way to increase the momentum for reform would for committees to report to COAG leaders each quarter and for these reports and the progress they outline to be subject to full scrutiny.

“Reporting by committees should occur every quarter to speed up progress and ensure directions set at previous meetings are being achieved.”

“Quarterly reporting is a basic benchmark expected of business – it should also apply to governments.”