Following an almost three-decade existence, the “COAG is no more”, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has confirmed.
Founded by the Keating government in 1992, as the peak intergovernmental forum in Australia, COAG is now being replaced by the new national cabinet, which first surfaced in March in response to the coronavirus crisis.
Over the past three months, states and territories have met with the Prime Minister weekly to co-ordinate a coronavirus response and determine necessary policies.
“One of the things we’ve learnt from meeting so regularly is that we can work effectively together with the tele-meeting facilities,” the Prime Minister said on Friday.
“One of the reasons the national cabinet has worked is that it has operated as a cabinet, with cabinet rules.”
The PM also agreed with sentiments that COAB is “where good ideas went to die”.
According to the PM, the national cabinet’s focus will now shift to job creation as Australia begins to exit the coronavirus health crisis.
“[The] national cabinet will be driven by a singular agenda to create jobs,” the PM confirmed.
The Council on Federal Financial Relations (CFFR), which is essentially a meeting of all treasurers, will report to the national cabinet, with CFFR said to take responsibility for all funding agreements including National Partnership Agreements.
Mr Morrison confirmed that during the crisis, the national cabinet will meet once a fortnight, following which it will ease into a once-a-month virtual meeting.
Once a year, however, the national cabinet will sit down in person with the CFFR and the Australian local government association under the name the National Federation Reform Council with a focus on priority national federation issues.
“The pace of meeting and the regulatory of meetings is very important,” the PM said.
The PM noted that the national cabinet removes “so much of the formalities” of COAG and is based on “candour and collegiality” in discussions between premiers, chief ministers and federal authorities.
Applauding the PM’s announcement, business organisation Business NSW said “the increased focus on national co-ordination and partnership” is a good move from the PM.
“The national cabinet process has worked extremely well in effectively managing all aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic, with collaboration and open communication ensuring Australia was among the world’s best in dealing with both the health and economic challenges,” said Business NSW chief executive officer Stephen Cartwright.
“Businesses of all shapes and sizes have had to change their operations to cope with the challenges — so, it’s only right that our governments learn from our recent successes and implement better ways of doing things as well.”