Australia’s Federal Relations Architecture
The Australian federal relations architecture includes intergovernmental forums where Commonwealth, state and territory ministers can meet to progress a range of priority cross-jurisdictional issues. At the core of this architecture is National Cabinet. National Cabinet was established on 13 March 2020 and comprises the Prime Minister and state and territory First Ministers. The first priority of National Cabinet was to respond to the urgent health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. While this continues to be a priority, First Ministers now utilise National Cabinet to collaboratively address a wide range of issues of national significance.
Prior to the establishment of National Cabinet, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) was the primary intergovernmental forum where the Prime Minister, state and territory First Ministers and the President of the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) worked together on policy reforms of national significance. On 29 May 2020, National Cabinet agreed to the cessation of COAG.
First Secretaries Group’s Review of Ministerial Councils
On 17 June 2022, to advance microeconomic and productivity reforms, First Secretaries were tasked by National Cabinet with providing advice on the role of Ministerial Councils in progressing national priorities, with a sharpened focus on productivity improvements. First Secretaries’ Group (FSG) comprises of the secretaries or directors general from the Commonwealth and each state and territory First Minister’s department. FSG’s Review of Ministerial Councils (the Review) sought to build on the 2020 Review of the former COAG councils and ministerial forums, led by Mr Peter Conran AM. The Review aimed to ensure that National Cabinet, Ministerial Councils and Commonwealth-state relations more broadly can operate under an enduring structure that promotes collaborative and results-driven decision making.
On 30 September 2022, National Cabinet agreed to the recommendations put forward by First Secretaries on a revised federal relations architecture and refreshed operational principles for Ministerial Councils, as well as a list of National Cabinet priorities. The executive summary and recommendations of the First Secretaries’ report, as well as the current architecture diagram and National Cabinet’s current priorities, can be found below.