Pre-Christmas COAG a chance to break gridlock

Senator Marise Payne, Shadow Minister for COAG, has called on the Gillard Government to urgently deal with the backlog of national reforms at the next meeting of COAG which could be held before Christmas.

The call follows the revelation during estimates yesterday by the Secretary of the Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, that there could be a COAG meeting held in December.

“A pre-Christmas COAG meeting would give Julia Gillard the perfect opportunity to heed the Treasury advice in its Red Book to the incoming government and streamline the COAG process,” Senator Payne said.

“Stakeholders are still waiting for progress in areas like indigenous health and housing, competition and business regulatory reform and transport and road reform and a pre-Christmas COAG would be the perfect opportunity to progress these reforms.

“The COAG Reform Council’s own Chairman has said that the CRC is labouring with out-of-date statistics from the states and territories that give it little chance of developing reform goals in many areas, much less achieving them.

“The COAG Reform process ground to a halt under the Rudd Government and Julia Gillard needs to sit down with the states and territories and get the reform process moving again.

“So far under the Gillard Government we have only heard vague proposals about a national disability strategy and regional spending reform but COAG’s role doesn’t need to be expanded; it needs to be focussed on delivering key reforms already on its crowded agenda.

“We also have the standoff between Ms Gillard and NSW Premier Kristina Keneally over the introduction of national workplace safety laws which quickly degenerated into a soap opera.

“Labor’s record on COAG is hardly inspiring. Its last significant ‘achievement’ was a hastily cobbled-together health funding re-arrangement that wasn’t supported by all of the states and does nothing but add another layer of bureaucracy.

“Julia Gillard must call a meeting of COAG in December so stakeholders are given some confidence that the government is serious about tackling national reform.”