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Policy report

A new federalism? The role and future of the National Cabinet

Federalism National cabinet Government accountability Machinery of government Australia

As the COVID-19 crisis began to escalate in Australia, a new institution, the National Cabinet, emerged. This policy brief sets out the National Cabinet’s establishment, structure, and achievements, before turning to key issues requiring attention, concerning the effectiveness, inclusiveness, transparency, and accountability of this new institutional arrangement.

Key points:

  • The National Cabinet deserves considerable credit for the (so far) very effective response to the pandemic in Australia. The COVID-19 public health crisis could not have been effectively met without drawing on the powers, knowledge and capacities of both the Commonwealth and the States, achieving a balance between collective action and tailored responses.
  • On 29 May, the Prime Minister announced that the National Cabinet would be transformed into a permanent body, replacing the existing intergovernmental architecture under the Council of Australian Governments (COAG).
  • The published outline for the structure of the new arrangements, presenting the National Cabinet and the Council on Federal Financial Relations (CFFR) as the two principal components of a National Federation Reform Council, supported by two task forces, seven National Cabinet Reform Committees and a series of intergovernmental expert advisory groups, potentially presents a major shake-up of Australia’s intergovernmental machinery.
Publication Details
Access Rights Type:
Governing During Crises Policy Brief No.2