Critical Reflections on Australian Public Policy: Selected by John Wanna

By John Wanna

This selection of ‘critical reflections’ on Australian public coverage bargains a invaluable contribution to public dialogue of significant political and coverage matters dealing with our state and society. those essays are very important not just as a result of attractiveness and place of many of the individuals, yet simply because they're particularly ‘content wealthy’ and brimming with new principles.

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Some of you might be aware that in the lead-up to the Australia 2020 Summit, I proposed the introduction of a full national curriculum progressively from the beginning of the 2010 school year, supported by a new national curriculum authority incorporating the state, Catholic and independent sectors. Here, I want to go further. In a globalised economy, with an increasingly mobile population, in the midst of a skills shortage, we need greater consistency in our education and training system. Currently, we have a mishmash of inconsistent responsibilities and accountability requirements.

Public spending as a proportion of GDP is also 13 per cent higher in those OECD countries with a unitary system of government. That’s why, internationally, the trend is towards developing a more federal style of government that is able to juggle the competing demands of globalisation and local communities. Yet, in Australia, federalism seems to be a scapegoat. The Withers Twomey report found that many of the arguments against federalism were based on misconceptions and false assumptions, such as that it was incompatible with 19 Critical Reflections on Australian Public Policy globalisation, too costly, had one tier of government too many and promoted buck-passing and conflict.

COAG is an increasingly important decision-making body that drives the reform process, makes collective decisions and resolves deadlocks. The fact that COAG has ceased the practice of always sitting in Canberra has changed the dynamic. But Australia needs COAG to become an enduring institution that rises above the ebb and flow of governments. A new intergovernmental agreement would: • • • • reflect that COAG is an equal partnership between all levels of government set out COAG’s vision and objectives have a strong emphasis on joint accountability and direct all Australian governments to meet high performance benchmarks provide flexibility for COAG to adapt and evolve 17 Critical Reflections on Australian Public Policy • • make COAG transparent to the community—using plain language that all Australians can understand drive the cultural change required to support a mature federalism.

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