With COVID-19 restrictions dissipating, the Morrison Government has turned its focus to Federation Reforms following inefficiencies and lack of clarity on roles and responsibilities during the bushfire crisis and COVID-19 pandemic.
Subsequent to a National Cabinet meeting, Prime Minister, the Hon Scott Morrison MP announced that the existing Council of Australian Governments (COAG) was to be replaced by a new structure based on the success of the National Cabinet.
Announced on Tuesday last week, the National Federation Reform Council (NFRC) will replace COAG and will bring along with it its own structure focussed on jobs and health as opposed to the bureaucratic nature of COAG.
With the changes to Federation engagement being the biggest in decades, many will be asking questions on how this may change engagement for stakeholders.
Nexus has been considering this and here are our thoughts on what these reforms to the Federation will mean for business and industry:
NEW NAME, SIMILAR STRUCTURE
While the new framework for State-Federal relations has a new name, it remains fairly similar in structure, albeit more streamlined. The NFRC consists of the National Cabinet, which will be familiar to people given its rise to prominence during COVID-19.
Two-way reporting will occur between the National Cabinet and the newly established Council on Federal Financial Relations (CFFR), which will consist of State and Federal Treasurers. The CCFR’s key responsibility going forward will be to review and redistribute the money currently assigned to existing national agreements.
The final overarching committee is the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) which will continue to play a key role in the Federation.
As part of these three committees there will be two taskforces on Indigenous Affairs and Women’s Safety that will report directly to the NCRF focussed on Closing the Gap and domestic violence, respectively. Going forward, there is scope for the NFRC to establish additional taskforces should a need arise.
The National Cabinet, CFFR and the ALGA will meet yearly in person as the National Federation Reform Council and will consider priority national issues.
IN AND NOT IN YET: PORTFOLIOS IN THE NATIONAL CABINET REFORM COMMITTEES
Continuing the Prime Minister’s streamlining approach to Federation reform, the existing COAG Councils will be replaced with a variety of Committees which will focus on job creation from a range of different portfolio points of views.
The new NCRCs and their relevant ministers are:
- Rural and Regional – The Hon Michael McCormack MP; The Hon David Littleproud MP; The Hon Mark Coulton MP
- Skills – Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash; The Hon Steve Irons MP
- Energy – The Hon Angus Taylor MP
- Housing – The Hon Michael Sukkar MP; The Hon Luke Howarth MP
- Transport and Infrastructure – The Hon Michael McCormack MP; The Hon Alan Tudge MP
- Population and Migration – The Hon Alan Tudge MP; The Hon Peter Dutton MP
- Health – The Hon Greg Hunt MP; Senator The Hon Richard Colbeck; The Hon Mark Coulton MP
This has seen several key portfolios miss out on specific committees, with a number of notable ministers not given a specific forum to date, to engage with their State and Territory counterparts. These portfolios and their relevant ministers include:
- Defence – Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds; The Hon Darren Chester MP; The Hon Alex Hawke MP; The Hon Melissa Price MP
- Education – The Hon Dan Tehan MP
- Social Services – Senator the Hon Anne Ruston
- Industry & Technology – Hon Karen Andrews MP
- Trade & Tourism – Senator Simon Birmingham
Given the extent of Government spending on Defence, Education and Social Services in recent years, Nexus believes that these portfolios that have not been given specific NCRCs will have some news in these areas in due course.
For business and industry operating in these key portfolio areas, the Federation reforms may present an opportunity to showcase the importance of these industries particularly to job creation and broader economic benefit.
Meanwhile, those businesses operating in areas that have NCRCs should be considering engagement with the relevant Federal Ministers on policy and regulatory opportunities that can be applied at the Federation level.
Nexus has experience guiding clients through the previous COAG bureaucracy and can assist your team with engaging the NFRC. If you or your organisation need any assistance, please don’t hesitate to reach out to the Nexus team.
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