COAG's Reform Agenda

COAG has committed to an unprecedented program of reform built on one vision: improving the wellbeing of all Australians, now and into the future.

COAG recognises that the Australian people want to see governments working together to ensure that the Australia of 10, 20 or 50 years' time has adequately addressed the issues that will impact on the quality of life of our children and their children. 


Making Federalism Work

For more than a century, our federal system has served Australia well. The division of roles and responsibilities between the Commonwealth and the States and Territories has provided checks and balances with greater accountability for the local delivery of services. Federalism gives citizens wider voting choice and greater access to government, while competition between States has improved their performance and spurred creative approaches to policy and service delivery. In Australia, our home State or Territory is an important part of our identity, and federalism reflects that reality.

Over time, however, the range and nature of government functions has evolved. Governments at all levels share responsibility for issues that could not have been foreseen at the time of Federation in 1901. And Australians are more mobile and better connected than ever before with each other and the world. So when our federal system does not work as well as it should, this imposes substantial burdens on business and the community.

COAG’s work is driven by a shared commitment to a strong, robust federal system that emphasises cooperative working relationships rather than buck-passing and blame. The reform agenda at the heart of COAG’s work identifies the economic, social and environmental priorities of the nation and sets out clear roles and responsibilities of governments in addressing them.

The Commonwealth has committed to produce a White Paper on the Reform of the Federation, and the responsibilities of different governments, to ensure that, as far as possible, the States and Territories are sovereign in their own sphere.


A New Federal Financial Relations Framework

A new framework for federal financial relations is delivering results. One of COAG’s early achievements under its current reform agenda was the development of the Intergovernmental Agreement on Federal Financial Relations (IGAFFR), which commenced on 1 January 2009.

The IGAFFR aims to enhance collaborative federalism by reducing the previous complexity of the Commonwealth’s financial relations with the States and the Territories, promoting greater flexibility in service delivery, and enhancing public accountability for achieving outcomes.

For more information, see the Federal Financial Relations Framework page.


Five Themes of Strategic Importance

To help shape its reform objectives, on 13 February 2011 COAG agreed to five themes of strategic importance. These five themes lie at the intersection of jurisdictional responsibilities:

  1. a long-term strategy for economic and social participation;
  2. a national economy driven by our competitive advantages;
  3. a more sustainable and liveable Australia;
  4. better health services and a more sustainable health system for all Australians; and
  5. Closing the Gap on Indigenous disadvantage.

Theme 1: A long-term strategy for economic and social participation
The key focus of this theme is on improving educational outcomes, through measures such as:

  • the provision of universal access to early childhood education;
  • improved literacy and numeracy through the school system; and
  • improved teacher quality and school leadership

Human capital is the bundle of attributes that determine how productive people are in their workplaces and in society. The focus on economic participation is inextricably linked to social participation measures and is reflected in COAG‘s reforms to improve education and training. Conversely, the focus on social participation recognises the need to ensure socially disadvantaged groups such as people with disability and Indigenous Australians are participating in society.

COAG is also committed to ensuring young people are engaged in education or work as they transition into adulthood through the provision of more training places for job seekers and existing workers. Further, this theme includes COAG‘s commitment to improve economic and social participation among certain groups in the community by addressing educational disadvantage of students and communities and reducing homelessness.

Theme 2: A national economy driven by our competitive advantages
This theme seeks to improve the environment in which Australian businesses operate and to assist in meeting Australia’s productivity challenges.
It includes:

  • regulatory reforms, including in areas such as occupational health and safety, consumer credit, consumer protection and product safety, occupational licensing, conveyancing, directors liability and regulation of the legal profession;
  • competition reforms within the energy, transport and infrastructure sectors, and
  • commitments to improving regulation and review mechanisms.

Theme 3: A more sustainable and liveable Australia
This theme aims to ensure all Australians have access to affordable, safe and sustainable housing which can, in turn, contribute to improved social and economic participation. Commitments include measures to enhance the supply and affordability of housing and improve the availability of social housing.
To achieve a sustainable Australia, COAG aims to ensure sufficient resources are available for Australia‘s population into the future and has committed to national water reforms, and improved energy efficiency of buildings and households.

Theme 4: Better health services and a more sustainable health system for all Australians
This theme includes the provision of higher quality, adequate health services to meet demand. A ‘sustainable health system’ means having adequate infrastructure and resources such as workforce, facilities and equipment, and being responsive to emerging needs, both now and into the future. It also includes appropriate access to primary care to avoid the need for acute care where possible.

Theme 5: Closing the Gap on Indigenous disadvantage
COAG has set Closing the Gap targets with the objective of reducing disadvantage experienced by Indigenous Australians. This theme is interdependent with COAG’s four other themes of strategic importance and, in particular, focuses on the health and education outcomes, and economic and social participation of Indigenous Australians. Closing the Gap involves addressing disadvantage experienced by Indigenous Australians, including in remote areas where services are less accessible.