Refocused COAG Must Now Turn to Delivery

COAG’s agreement to streamline COAG’s priorities and operations around five strategic themes, as well as the rationalisation of ministerial councils should see COAG better equipped to deliver on its mandate, Business Council of Australia Acting Chief Executive Maria Tarrant said.

“The BCA wrote to the Prime Minister last week following her announcement of a commitment to better focus COAG and make it more accountable and results-oriented, with a simplified agenda.

“We suggested to the Prime Minister that COAG needed to find ways to overcome systemic delays in securing timely legislative passage through Parliaments at each level of government. It is pleasing to see that governments have committed to prioritising the passage of legislation to give effect to national agreements reached by COAG,” Ms Tarrant said.

A recognition by the Council of Australian Governments of the benefits of a further wave of competition and regulatory reform is encouraging, but governments cannot afford to be distracted from the completion of reforms already on the table.

While we acknowledge COAG’s agreement to bring forward the reform deadlines for the seamless national economy agreement, concerted energy and focus will be necessary to meet the revised deadlines. This point was borne out in the latest assessment report of the COAG Reform Council, which highlighted the challenges to progressing these reforms.

“Furthermore, progress in delayed reforms like national transport regulation and energy – which have the potential to drive significant productivity improvements – will need to gather pace if the new deadlines are to be met,” Ms Tarrant said.

COAG has taken a positive first step towards agreeing a common set of policies for developing Australia’s port infrastructure to meet our growing freight needs.

Business now urges governments to complete the implementation plan ensuring that jurisdictional obligations are clearly defined, reporting requirements under the plan are fit for purpose and that reporting on ports performance is regular and transparent.

The renewed commitment to transparency and accountability in public hospital funding that was agreed at COAG is a positive step. However, there is a long way to go before we have the fundamental change needed to meet the emerging gaps in healthcare provision. In particular, the BCA believes that the sector would benefit from a significant dose of microeconomic reform that will substantially reorient the health sector to be more patient focused and incorporate new systems of governance. While increased funding is necessary, broader reforms will ultimately deliver the biggest benefits to Australians in how they access high-quality health care in the decades to come.

COAG’s agreement to take immediate steps to implement the National Strategy for Disaster Resilience should contribute to building capacity to better withstand future disasters. However, this should be supported by a Productivity Commission inquiry to assess how to better manage the risks and funding of future disasters including how this interacts with private insurance and infrastructure investment decisions,” Ms Tarrant said.

Looking ahead, the real test now is for COAG to be persistent in following through on these agreements and delivering reforms.