Barr echoes calls for COAG reform after National Cabinet success

Dominic Giannini 19 May 2020 4
Chief Minister Andrew Barr

Chief Minister Andrew Barr has echoed calls for reforms from NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Chief Minister Andrew Barr has echoed NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s calls for COAG reforms, saying that more regular meetings should be scheduled once the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

Both leaders also flagged the need for economic reform and expansion to help the nation recover from coronavirus, and encouraging foreign investment in Australia as opposed to the struggling UK or US.

The Coalition of Australian Governments, or COAG, is a twice-annual meeting of the Prime Minister and state and territory First Ministers but can meet up to four times a year when needed.

The calls for COAG reform come a few day’s after Premier Berejiklian called the intergovernmental body “clumsy, overly bureaucratic and mired in red tape”.

“I think National Cabinet has really empowered us as leaders to take things forward in a considered and a very timely way without getting bogged down in the red tape that can often hang around these processes,” she told Sky News on Sunday night (17 May).

It is a sentiment that is shared by the Chief Minister.

“COAG can be improved by more regular meetings that have a shared purpose,” Mr Barr told Region Media.

“The National Cabinet has worked well in managing Australia’s COVID-19 response. The next phase of work should be managing the economic recovery. Our focus will need to be on job creation and infrastructure.”

National Cabinet was meeting three times a week during the peak of the pandemic but is now moving to meet fortnightly, with space to meet weekly if necessary.

The successful implementation of policies and discussions coming out of National Cabinet on the more frequent timetable throughout the pandemic should be extended to Australian economic reform, Ms Berejiklian said.

“Our federation is ripe for economic reform,” she said.

“Our federation has not changed in decades and our federation assumes our states have the same population, the same economic diversity, which we do not.

“This process has really, I think, highlighted that. The National Cabinet has demonstrated what can be achieved.”

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian told Sky News that all options should be on the table following the pandemic.

When asked if Canberra would follow the same path as Sydney looking to invite private capital into the city as a safer alternative to UK or US markets still struggling with COVID-19 outbreaks, Mr Barr referred Region Media to Invest Canberra.

Invest Canberra lobbies private capital to invest in the Territory by “identifying business opportunities and … providing research and specialist knowledge of Canberra and its local market conditions and growth opportunities”.

Mr Barr said Invest Canberra is already looking to attract more investment into the ACT.

“The ACT Government’s Investment Attraction and Facilitation Team is dedicated to growing an already competitive and sustainable ACT economy,” he said.

“Our free and impartial services open doors for businesses and help drive investment further by providing intelligence on the local market, fostering business connections and offering support through the investment decision and execution process.”

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4 Responses to Barr echoes calls for COAG reform after National Cabinet success
Nell Feneck Nell Feneck 9:38 am 20 May 20

What’s in it for you Andy - can’t see you doing anything for the good of Canberrans you grub

Andrew Barr ACT Chief Minister

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 6:56 pm 19 May 20

“…Our focus will need to be on job creation and infrastructure.” – i.e. could Scotty please pay for the rest of the Canberra tram network.

Paul Keating’s pithy comment about these meetings being like the dance of the brolgas is probably the best clue about where this process will go – it will end up as the usual bunfight over money, and Gladys has already made clear that she thinks NSW should be providing less cross-subsidies to other jurisdictions, and should have more freedom for reforms.

The big reform which is needed, but which will never happen for obvious reasons, is a serious re-jig of federal financial relations.

Even without fiddling around with further centralising or devolving responsibilities, most (probably all) of the States and Territories will need increased federal funding to maintain major programs, particularly in health and education. That should be a priority ahead of any dreams of further flattening of the income tax scales, or of chasing after Singapore-style rates of company tax.

Stephen Saunders Stephen Saunders 11:11 am 19 May 20

National Cabinet seems to have encouraged the Coalition to be a bit more pro-people and a bit less market-ideological. But I think that will all go up in smoke, come the next Frydenberg Budget.

    bikhet bikhet 3:22 pm 19 May 20

    And the federal Greens have discovered the money tree, or at least Adam Bandt says they have. Meanwhile federal Labor sits on its hands.

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