Abbott, Pragmatic Nationalist, Proposes Modest Reform Of Federation

Describing himself as a “pragmatic nationalist”, Prime Minister Tony Abbott says he believes it is worth another try to “harmonise” the revenue and spending responsibilities of the States and the Commonwealth.

ParkesAbbott spoke at the Sir Henry Parkes Commemorative Dinner in Tenterfield, NSW. On October 24 1889, Parkes, a five-time premier of NSW, delivered his famous Tenterfield Oration, a call for the colonies to federate.

Abbott said: “Now I remain a pragmatic nationalist – but the states exist, they have wide powers under the constitution and they can’t be abolished; so – rather than pursue giving the Commonwealth more authority over the states, as I proposed in my 2009 book, Battlelines – better harmonising revenue and spending responsibilities is well worth another try.”

Abbott said he used to think that “the states should become subordinate legislatures to the Commonwealth”, but he now doubted that “any such constitutional change could succeed”. He said: “…in any event, it’s a good principle to propose the smallest change that will actually tackle the problem – that’s why resolving the mismatch between what the states are supposed to deliver and what they can actually afford to pay for is worth another go.” [Read more…]


COAG Discussions Focus On Terrorism, Federation And Taxation

The Council of Australian Governments met in Canberra and discussed a range of issues, including terrorism, reform of the Federation and the taxation system.

COAG

The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, held a joint press conference following the meeting. He was accompanied by Premiers Baird, Napthine, Newman, Barnett, Weatherill and Hodgman, as well as the Territory Chief Ministers Gallagher and Giles. Felicity-Ann Lewis represented Local Government.

The State have agreed to introduce legislation to support federal laws covering the arrest, monitoring, investigation and prosecution of domestic extremists and returning foreign fighters.

COAG also agreed that the Federation and Tax Reform White Papers need to progress together. [Read more…]


Premiers Rebel Over Federal Budget Cuts; Demand COAG Meeting Before July 1

The States have rebelled over Federal Government Budget cuts, claiming that the impact will be felt on July 1, and demanding Prime Minister Tony Abbott convene a COAG meeting before then.

Newman

The State Premiers and Territory Chief Ministers met in Sydney today at a meeting called by the Queensland LNP Premier, Campbell Newman. The Western Australian Premier, Colin Barnett, was the only leader not to attend.

Newman said the meeting “firmly and unequivocally rejected” the Budget cuts. The political leaders demanded an urgent meeting of the Council of Australia Governments before July 1. Newman said: “Contrary to what the PM said today, there are immediate impacts to frontline services.”

He said the $180 million cut to hospitals would be felt immediately with about 1200 sub-acute beds being cut in hospitals. “There was a national partnership on preventative health – we all received letters saying that is terminated.” [Read more…]


COAG Agreement On Indigenous Truancy And One-Stop Shops For Projects

The first meeting of the Council of Australian Governments since the election of the Abbott government has taken place in Canberra today.

COAG agreed to tackled indigenous truancy and to cut “green tape” by implementing “one stop shops”.

COAG

State Premiers and Territory Chief Ministers also agreed to sign on to the government’s paid parental scheme.

The meeting also agreed to examine ways to fast-track infrastructure projects.

Speaking at a joint press conference, Prime Minister Tony Abbott said COAG had felt like a “meeting of equals”. He described himself as a “pragmatic federalist” who wanted the Commonwealth, State and Territory governments to get on with dealing with issues in their own jurisdictions. [Read more…]


Education Ministers Speak Out On Pyne’s School Funding Announcement

Education Minister Christopher Pyne’s state counterparts have criticised Pyne’s decision to pull out of the Gillard government’s Gonski school funding agreements.

The ministers spoke to the media after meeting with Pyne today. They included NSW minister Adrian Piccoli who has led the criticism of Pyne. The Australian Education Union’s Angelos Gavrielatos and parents’ organisations also weighed in on the announcement.

Ministers

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Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings At The National Press Club

Tasmania’s Labor Premier, Lara Giddings, has addressed the National Press Club in Canberra.

Giddings spoke at length about the state of Tasmania’s economy. She defended her state’s share of the proceeds of the Goods and Services Tax, praised the National Broadband Network and talked of Tasmania’s place in the Asian Century.

Gidding

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Transcript of speech to the National Press Club by Tasmanian Premier Lara Giddings.

INTRODUCTION

Thank you to the National Press Club for inviting me to speak to you today.

If you were in Tasmania this summer you would have seen some of the world’s biggest cruise ships tied up in one of the most beautiful harbours on the planet.

You would have seen thousands of tourists and locals queuing to get into one of the world’s best museums at MONA. [Read more…]


Full Text Of COAG Communique

This is the full text of the Council of Australian Governments Communique issued after today’s meeting of first ministers in Canberra.

COAG press conference

Full text of the COAG Communique released following today’s meeting of federal, state and territory first ministers.

Council of Australian Governments Meeting – Communiqué

Canberra, 7 December 2012

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) held its 34th meeting in Canberra today, 20 years to the day since its first meeting in Perth in 1992. The Prime Minister, Premiers, Chief Ministers and the President of the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) participated in today’s meeting. The Leaders welcomed Northern Territory Chief Minister, the Hon Terry Mills MLA and President of ALGA, Felicity-ann Lewis to their first COAG meeting.

COAG also reiterated its commitment to focus its attention on policy reforms of national significance, and to keep its agenda as streamlined as possible.

National Disability Insurance Scheme

COAG reaffirmed its ongoing commitment to a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) by signing an intergovernmental agreement for its first stage. The agreement provides the foundation for all governments to work together to develop and implement the initial phase of the NDIS. The lessons learned in implementing the first stage will inform governments about proceeding to a full scheme by:

  • setting out shared roles and responsibilities for working collaboratively on the policy for a full scheme;
  • establishing the new Standing Council on Disability Reform, with representation from all jurisdictions, which – from 1 January 2013 – will be responsible for making decisions and formulating advice on matters arising from the launch and related to the transition to a full scheme; and
  • setting in place arrangements for the review and evaluation of the first stage which will inform the transition to a full scheme.

COAG noted the historic agreement between the Commonwealth and New South Wales Governments to establish the full NDIS in New South Wales by 1 July 2018. The Commonwealth noted that it looks forward to concluding agreements on the same terms with all other governments.

In addition, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory signed bilateral agreements with the Commonwealth which confirm the operational and funding details for the roll-out of the NDIS in each launch site. From this time, under the launch arrangements, people with a disability, their families and carers will start to benefit from a fairer, more sustainable and equitable approach to supporting people with disability. Discussions on further launch sites are continuing. [Read more…]


Gillard Claims Progress On NDIS And Power Prices Following COAG Meeting

The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has claimed progress on the National Disability Insurance Scheme and reform of the electricity market following today’s meeting of the Council of Australian Governments.

Julia Gillard

Gillard and the state and territory leaders reached agreement to establish a new Standing Council on Disability Reform. Gillard said: “The Agreement provides the foundation for all governments to work together to develop and implement the first stage of these important reforms.”

On electricity market reform, COAG agreed to: rule changes to ensure no over-investment in networks; giving consumers a voice in the electricity market; a strengthened independent regulator; more choice for consumers; actions to reduce electricity peaks; and to provide for greater demand-side participation to make it easier for consumers to reduce demand, particularly at peak periods.

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Earlier in the day, state and territory leaders spoke to the media before attending the COAG meeting.

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Text of media release from Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

COAG Progresses The National Disability Insurance Scheme

At the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting in Canberra today, all governments took a major step towards giving people with disability the care and support they need over their lifetimes by signing an Intergovernmental Agreement for the first stage of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

The Agreement provides the foundation for all governments to work together to develop and implement the first stage of these important reforms.

The Agreement also sets out shared roles and responsibilities for working collaboratively on the policy for a full scheme and establishing arrangements for the review and evaluation of the first stage.

The Agreement will be overseen by a new Standing Council on Disability Reform, which will have representation from Ministers and Treasurers from all jurisdictions. The Standing Council will be responsible for making decisions and formulating advice on matters arising from the launch and the transition to a full scheme. [Read more…]


John Brumby Appointed To Chair COAG Reform Council

The former Victorian Labor Premier, John Brumby, has been appointed to chair the COAG Reform Council for the next three years.

John BrumbyBrumby will replace businessman Paul McClintock when he takes up the position in January.

The seven-member council “assists the Council of Australian Governments with its reform agenda”.

It reports to COAG and provides reports on the performance of Australian governments in achieving benchmarks set out in national agreements and partnership arrangements.

A former teacher and teachers’ union official, Brumby, 59, held the federal seat of Bendigo for the ALP from 1983-90. He became Chief of Staff to federal minister Alan Griffiths before being elected to the Victorian Legislative Council in 1993. Later that year he was elected to the Legislative Assembly district of Broadmeadows, replacing the former Labor leader Jim Kennan.

As Opposition Leader, and with Julia Gillard as his Chief of Staff, Brumby lost the 1996 election and was replaced by Steve Bracks in 1999. After the ALP defeated Jeff Kennett’s coalition government later that year, Brumby became Finance Minister before taking over as Treasurer in May 2000. He held that position until Steve Bracks retired in July 2007. Brumby then served as Premier until November 2010 when he was narrowly defeated by Ted Baillieu.

Text of a media release from Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

New Chair Of COAG Reform Council

The Hon John Brumby has been appointed to chair the COAG Reform Council for the next three years.

The COAG Reform Council assists the Council of Australian Governments with its reform agenda. [Read more…]


Gillard Announces Royal Commision Into Child Sexual Abuse

The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, has announced a Royal Commission into child abuse in Australia.

Julia Gillard

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Gillard said she had consulted with the premiers of Victoria and NSW, both of whom had agreed to co-operate on developing the terms of reference for the Royal Commission. She said she hoped the terms of reference and an announcement of the commissioners could be finalised by Christmas.

The Prime Minister made it clear this would not be an inquiry into the Catholic Church alone but into government and private institutions around Australia, including schools, welfare agencies, sporting organisations and suchlike.

Gillard said she has spoken to the Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal Pell, about the inquiry.

Gillard said the time to be taken by the Royal Commission is “not knowable”. She said it would be foolish to stipulate the number of “days, months or years”.

The Prime Minister said there has been a systemic failure in the response to child abuse that required a national solution.

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Press release from the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard.

Establishment of Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse

Today I have announced that I will be recommending to the Governor-General the establishment of a Royal Commission into institutional responses to instances and allegations of child sexual abuse in Australia.

The allegations that have come to light recently about child sexual abuse have been heartbreaking.

These are insidious, evil acts to which no child should be subject.

The individuals concerned deserve the most thorough of investigations into the wrongs that have been committed against them.

They deserve to have their voices heard and their claims investigated.

I believe a Royal Commission is the best way to do this.

The proposed terms of reference and proposed Commissioner will be submitted to the Governor-General in due course, pursuant to the Royal Commissions Act 1902.

I will speak with relevant Premiers and Chief Ministers in coming days to discuss how the Royal Commission should relate to any current inquiries into similar matters currently proposed or underway in their jurisdictions. Discussions will also take place with victims’ groups, religious leaders, and community organisations.

The Attorney-General and the Minister for Families will co-ordinate this work on behalf of the Government in coming weeks.

Further announcements, including the proposed Commissioner and detailed terms of reference, will be made in coming weeks.

I commend the victims involved for having the courage to speak out.

I believe we must do everything we can to make sure that what has happened in the past is never allowed to happen again.