COAG Leaders Must Keep Stepping Up

Australia’s federal and state leaders today demonstrated they are prepared to keep working collaboratively to deliver important national reforms, BCA Chief Executive Katie Lahey said.

“The decision to bring forward December’s COAG meeting to address measures that could not be discussed today shows a determination by COAG to push to keep reforms on track,” Ms Lahey said.

“And it is understandable that COAG leaders wanted to address the global financial crisis.”

However, the delay in considering key economic reforms at today’s Council of Australian Governments meeting increases pressure on the leaders to deliver against their agreed timelines over the coming months, Ms Lahey said.

“Delays are emerging in considering key reforms in important areas including specific purpose payments implementation, health care agreements, and measures to improve outcomes in water management,” she said.

 “COAG faces a tremendously large and complicated agenda. To maintain reform progress in vital areas of importance for Australia’s economy COAG must continue to meet as often as required to keep critical reforms on track.

“Australia’s political leaders must not sidestep this once-in-a-century opportunity to strengthen the foundations of economic growth,” she said.

“We welcome the decision to hold a special COAG meeting early next year to achieve the closing the gap targets for Indigenous people.

Ms Lahey said COAG had delivered on some of the procedural changes called for by the BCA in its Charter for New Federalism last December, including more regular meetings, more detail in published reform commitments and an expanded agenda.

“We can’t underestimate how robust the council’s working processes need to be to deliver on all its commitments over coming months.

“A greater degree of accountability and visibility around the progress of work being undertaken would keep the pressure on all parties to deliver against their reform commitments.

“While some progress has been made on strengthening COAG processes, there is a still a lack of clarity in some areas, for example the accountabilities of ministerial councils and the COAG working groups.

“By continuing to improve its processes and accountability, including a commitment to do whatever it takes to maintain reform momentum, COAG will be able to take this opportunity.

“This includes delivering on a seamless national economy by 2010, and delivering its commitments in areas including health, education, skills, infrastructure and climate change,” Ms Lahey said.