Scott Morrison has turned a new chapter in history, dissolving the previous mechanisms for collaboration between State and Federal Leaders – COAG – and making National Cabinet permanent.
The Council of Australian Government, which typically meets twice a year, is an event where all State Premiers and Federal leaders get together to chat it out.
Yes, it’s a lot like National Cabinet, just less frequent and admittedly not as good at getting stuff done.
In the PM’s own words, it was known as a forum where “good ideas go to die”.
But now, after weeks of being asked if the new National Cabinet fixture that has determined the Australia’s response to COVID-19 will survive after the pandemic, Mr Morrison turned a significant corner.
“COAG is no more,” Mr Morrison told journalists in Canberra today.
“The National Cabinet will be driven by a singular agenda, to create jobs.”
COAG has been in place since 1992, so the sudden relinquishing of the meeting of leaders is no small thing.
So what’s the difference?
First off, National Cabinet will meet monthly, not twice a year.
This will be allowed to happen by leaving the tradition of meeting in person in the past.
“We won’t meet in person,” Mr Morrison said.
“One of the things we’ve learned from meeting so regularly, we can work effectively together with tele-meeting facilities.”
The other very significant detail is transparency.
Federal and State Cabinet meetings are protected by secrecy, with documents and conversations within them protected for 30 years before being made public.
So a National Cabinet would enjoy the same protections, and the same duck below transparency.
The PM’s response to any concerns about this? “Politics is not a spectator sport.”
As part of the new era of co-operation, Mr Morrison announced a five-year hospital agreement between the State and Federal Governments.
It included a $131.4 billion investment by the Commonwealth.
“There is also, as part of our agreement, a funding guarantee to all States and Territories to ensure no jurisdiction is left worse off as a result of COVID-19 and guarantees the Commonwealth’s funding contribution for public hospitals over the next five years,” he said.
Back to the virus at hand
National Cabinet will for now keep meeting fortnightly to deal with issues caused by COVID-19.
Speaking of, Mr Morrison addressed a few of the “points of difference” that arose after National Cabinet met today.
The main one being State border closures.
He said there had been a “very candid discussion” about the different approaches to border closures (you can read between the lines on that one).
Importantly, he predicted the borders to re-open by Stage 3 at the latest – being July.
Queensland’s position remains that the borders wont be looked at until September at the earliest, while WA made clear the restrictions would stay in place as long as possible.
Mr Morrison warned those States that did not open back up could miss out on being part of the Trans-Tasman bubble.
“Prime Minister Ardern and I discuss it regularly and we are progressing it well and for the jobs that will be created in the aviation sector in particular won’t be held u on the decisions the Premiers wish to make,” he said.
Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy said Australia was “on track” and making good progress with quashing the virus, confirming just two Australians were left on ventilators.
More Perth News coverage on SoPerth.com.au.