Today the National Federation Reform Council (NFRC), comprising the Prime Minister, Premiers, Chief Ministers, Treasurers and President of the Australian Local Government Association, met virtually for the second time.
The NFRC reflected on the achievements of Australian governments and the Australian community in 2021, including collaborative efforts to support the COVID-19 health response and vaccination rollout. Other inter-jurisdictional achievements were also noted, including the creation of a nationally consistent framework for measuring progress of women’s economic security and an intergovernmental agreement on data sharing.
The Australian community, supported by all levels of governments, has shown remarkable resilience to adapt and sustain the health and economic response throughout the second year of this pandemic. Australia is well placed to keep driving the recovery as the pandemic evolves. All levels of government will continue to work together to support the ongoing COVID-19 health response and economic recovery, including job creation, and broader Commonwealth-State priorities.
The NFRC will meet again in late 2022.
COVID-19 Economic Recovery, Productivity and Growth
Dr Steven Kennedy, Treasury Secretary, and Philip Lowe, Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, provided a joint update on the economic and market outlook for 2022. Michael Brennan, Chair of the Productivity Commission, continued the discussion with observations on productivity enhancing reforms.
The NFRC noted a number of opportunities have arisen in the post-COVID-19 environment, including growth in manufacturing and local industries, building on regulatory flexibility, and boosting skills and human capital. However, work will also need to occur to mitigate risks. Workforce constraints, cost of living pressures and global disruptions to domestic supply chains may inhibit these potential opportunities.
The NFRC agreed that to enable economic growth, all members must prioritise an economic growth and job creation agenda in 2022.
Councillor Linda Scott, President of the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA), provided an overview of the significant efforts of local governments in 2021 to support communities dealing with the impact of COVID-19. These efforts were recognised by the Commonwealth, state and territory governments, and it was agreed that a collaborative effort is needed in 2022 to support Australia’s economic recovery.
The Women’s Safety, Indigenous Affairs and Veterans’ Wellbeing NFRC Taskforces provided updates on their work in 2021.
The NFRC noted the Women’s Safety Taskforce will work to finalise the next National Plan to End Violence Against Women and Children in 2022. They will also progress the National Partnership on Family, Domestic and Sexual Violence Responses 2021-23 and other priority work to address violence against women and children.
The NFRC noted the Indigenous Affairs Taskforce key priorities including the National Roadmap for Indigenous Skills, Jobs and Wealth Creation and developing a national strategy for priority actions on food security in remote Indigenous communities.
The NFRC noted the Veterans’ Wellbeing Taskforce will meet next week to consider mental health and wellbeing, transition to employment, commemorations, and research and data collection.
The NFRC noted that National Cabinet provided in-principle endorsement of the National Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Agreement. The Agreement sets out a shared objective to improve the mental health and suicide prevention system and builds on and reaffirms the NFRC’s vision and principles for reform, agreed in December 2020.
The NRFC noted progress on the implementation of the priority actions associated with the Royal Commission into National Natural Disaster Arrangements. The NFRC endorsed a second tranche of priority actions requiring a national coordinated approach for prioritisation over the next year.