Goodwill Is Positive, but Action Is the Real Test

COAG Promise Welcomed but the Test Will Be Real Action

The Business Council of Australia welcomes the commitment at today’s Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting by the federal and state government first ministers to a new era of cooperation.
The BCA urges COAG to translate the goodwill demonstrated today for an acceleration of important national reforms into action.
Prime Minister Kevin Rudd should be congratulated for his decision to call together COAG so soon after the election of his government.
In particular we support the decision of COAG to focus on seven priority reform areas including health and ageing, productivity agenda including education and skills, climate change and water, infrastructure, business regulation and competition.
Traditionally, however, many commitments made at COAG meetings have not translated into significant or lasting outcomes.
This is why the BCA this week called for COAG to agree to a Charter for New Federalism as a key step to improving Australia’s dysfunctional system of federalstate relations and delivering a revitalised national reform agenda.
The charter, designed to institutionalise better COAG outcomes, would require the council to meet at least twice a year, increased transparency of decision making and independent scrutiny of council decisions and progress.
The BCA welcomes the commitments at today’s meeting for COAG to meet every three months in 2008 and to setting up ministerial working groups around the key agenda areas.
However, we need to see clear progress in those areas and agreement to a more comprehensive overhaul of council processes.
We encourage the next COAG meeting to agree to further improvements in the accountability and transparency of its meeting processes to lay the foundations for Australia to reach its full potential.