COAG Still Lagging on Important Productivity Reforms

The latest report on COAG’s delivery of a seamless national economy highlights that although there appears to be progress on paper, outcomes on the ground are still lagging for most important reforms.

Business Council of Australia Chief Executive Jennifer Westacott said: “The seamless national economy reforms are supposed to reduce costs to business, increase labour mobility and expand productive capacity”.

“Unfortunately the COAG Reform Council’s latest assessment shows slippage in areas that are critical to meeting these outcomes, such as the harmonisation of occupational health and safety and trade licensing.

“The Productivity Commission recently underscored the importance of following through on the high-priority seamless national economy reforms.

“It found two reforms – occupational health and safety and standard business reporting – accounted for around a quarter of the potential $4 billion in business and other cost savings from assessed reforms, but their benefits had not been realised.

“While around half of the seamless national economy agenda has been completed in four years, this just highlights how much work COAG has to do to complete the remainder of the reforms in the final year of its reform agreement.

“All governments will need to substantially lift their game if COAG’s increasingly ambitious timetable is to be met.

“COAG has reached a stage where it needs a tighter agenda focused on delivering real outcomes in the most important areas on the ground quickly, rather than its current overloaded agenda and excessive process.

“The Business Council of Australia is also concerned that COAG has not heeded repeated calls from the COAG Reform Council for COAG to lift its performance on critical competition reforms in areas like transport regulation and energy market efficiency.

“As a result, there have been repeated delays and we now have an implementation plan that extends into 2016 in the case of the review of energy price regulation.

“It is time for COAG to deliver results in the areas that matter most for the national economy by prioritising its focus on the reforms that will have the greatest impact on lifting Australia’s productivity and national competitiveness,” she said.