Time for COAG to Sweat the Big Stuff

The latest report on the slow pace of reform achieved by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) highlights the importance of streamlining the council’s agenda to what really counts,” BCA Chief Executive Jennifer Westacott said.

Responding to today’s release of the COAG Reform Council’s (CRC) report, Lessons for Federal Reform, Ms Westacott said that Australia could only achieve its future potential if the federation was functioning well.

“It is deeply concerning that the CRC has found that COAG’s pace of reform has further slowed, and that 15 out of 32 key performance indicators show little to no progress or, in some cases, have gone backwards.

“It is particularly disappointing to see that only 9 of 19 competition reforms have been delivered.

“If COAG is to be a useful national institution, it needs to adopt a more streamlined, medium-term agenda, which focuses only on the most important issues facing the nation.”

Ms Westacott said COAG had a vital role to play in improving policy around infrastructure funding and delivery, health service delivery, labour market reform, national tax reform, and streamlining planning and environmental regulation.

“All governments must renew their efforts to deliver important economic reforms that are still outstanding after 5 years, including a seamless national trades licensing scheme and a national occupational health and safety scheme. COAG needs to approach these reforms with a risk-based approach, to reduce regulatory costs and reduce barriers to geographic mobility by people wishing to take up opportunities in other states.

“We also need to improve the numeracy skills of students, and increase the participation of young people in work or study. This will help smooth the transition of young people from education to work, and enable them to be productively employed.

“COAG needs to approach these reforms by implementing the best features of the best state schemes around the country. The lowest common denominator approach has been an obstacle to making progress.”

Ms Westacott said the BCA agreed with the CRC that it’s time to come up with new ways of incentivising reform. She pointed to the BCA’s Action Plan for Enduring Prosperity which recommended that the Commonwealth should introduce a new system of national productivity payments to state and territory governments.

“The issues raised by the CRC report should be at the top of the agendas of all state and territory governments.

“Over the next decade and beyond, COAG will be responsible for progressing reforms associated with the most pressing issues facing the nation.

“How COAG does its job will impact on the prosperity of all Australians, making the Commonwealth’s White Paper on Federal Reform one of the most critical documents developed by the Abbott Government.”

For further information contact:
Scott Thompson, Director, Media and Public Affairs
Business Council of Australia
Telephone (03) 8664 2603 | Mobile 0403 241 128