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Review of COAG Councils and Ministerial Forums

Report to National Cabinet
National cabinet Federal government Australia

On 26 June 2020, National Cabinet agreed that former Director-General of the Western Australian Department of Premier and Cabinet and former Commonwealth Cabinet Secretary, Mr Peter Conran AM, would lead a review of the former COAG Councils and Ministerial Forums with a view to rationalise and reset their work. National Cabinet also agreed to terms of reference for the review, which set out avenues for consultation with Commonwealth and state and territory ministers and officials. The terms of reference note that additional bodies may be identified for consultation through the course of the review.

Many previous reviews have attempted to address concerns around the ineffective and inefficient nature of the intergovernmental architecture of the day and its failure to achieve significant outcomes. Past reviews have aimed to reduce the number councils to help address this. Despite repeated attempts to rationalise bodies, they have continued to grow. Attempts to change work practices to improve productivity have been similarly unsuccessful.

This review aims to learn from these past experiences by recognising that the number and names of groups are not so important – successful, enduring reform will come by resetting how groups operate. To that end, there are a number of recommendations focussed on streamlining not just the bodies themselves, but their future operations. This includes a shift in focus from procedure to a collaborative work program and agenda setting mechanisms that assist in achieving outcomes and allow for more focussed decision-making.

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