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Scott Morrison got it wrong when he said Australians wanted government out of their lives. Had government not been in our lives last week when the electricity system faced a meltdown, the lights would have gone out. No, apart from not wanting Scott Morrison in their lives, Australians probably want more government but less politics. And, if the mood after the national cabinet meeting on Friday was any indication, that is what they are getting. For the moment anyway.
Here were the state premiers and territory chiefs - not all of the same political persuasion - and the Prime Minister putting on a rare display of unity and common purpose. They'd struck a deal to have the Commonwealth extend additional health funding for the states until December. After Morrison's rote "that's a state responsibility" reflex, it was a refreshing change, one described as such by NSW Liberal Premier Dominic Perrottet. So was the way the national cabinet media conference was presented. Where Morrison would appear on his own, ensuring he was the centre of attention, Albanese and the entire cabinet were available for questions. Here was a lot of government but not much politics.
The national cabinet agreed it would meet four times a year. It also undertook to have a local government representative attend a meeting once a year - important because this third tier of government is the one most directly in touch with the community. The Echidna hopes it will keep being called "national cabinet" rather than revert to the previous acronym COAG (for Council of Australian Governments), which sounds like some horrible throat infection.
The new collegial vibe in the federation is the polar opposite of the bickering and sniping during the depths of the pandemic, when borders were closed and state premiers were at each others' throats. In fact, a remarkable thing happened the day before national cabinet met, when NSW and Victoria jointly announced a sweeping reform of education, adding a year to school - pre-prep in Victoria and pre-kindergarten in NSW. A conservative-right Liberal premier and his socialist-left Labor counterpart singing from the same songbook. Who'd have thought it?
Government free of politics can be a wonderfully constructive thing.
HAVE YOUR SAY: Are our state premiers and territory chief ministers likely to get on better under the Albanese government? What do you think of Victoria and NSW jointly introducing another year of education? Do you want more government and less politics in your life? Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org
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IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:
- South Australian Premier Peter Malinauskas is among 121 Australians sanctioned by Russia for allegedly promoting a "Russophobic agenda". The SA premier said he would wear the sanction as a badge of honour and thanked Russia for taking notice of his state's stance on its invasion of Ukraine.
- The Albanese Labor government is ending the compulsory religious aspect of the $60 million a year National School Chaplaincy Program, giving schools a choice of chaplain or professionally-qualified student welfare officer.
- The Omicron variant of coronavirus is less likely to cause long COVID than previous variants, according to the first peer-reviewed study of its kind from the United Kingdom. Researchers at King's College London found the odds of developing long COVID after infection were 20 per cent to 50 per cent lower during the Omicron wave in the UK compared with Delta.
THEY SAID IT: "The fortunes of federalism have visibly trembled in the balance twenty times during the past ten years ... To those who watched its inner workings, followed its fortunes as if their own, and lived the life of devotion to it day by day, its actual accomplishment must always appear to have been secured by a series of miracles." - Alfred Deakin
YOU SAID IT: "BHP Hunter Valley: turn it over to the unions to run. They will do a better job until it's not required. Exporting our resources: if we can't get a fair price, don't until we do or use the resource ourselves and make Australia great. We should not have got rid of the County Councils, they were great. Privatisation does not make items cheaper, co-operation does." - Gary
"Support to Sri Lanka should not be used to perpetuate 'corruption, cronyism and bad policy' as well as systematic human rights abuses against the Tamil people." - Steve
"Of course with privatisation, you introduce layers of profiteers: thus we now have generators, wholesalers, retailers. This American model is completely ridiculous. Look to Norway, the UAE, and Malaysia, to see how to use a country's resources for the good of the country, not profiteers, who are foreigners mainly, and do not care about Australia. We are simply a resource to be plundered." - Brian
"The argument put forward by Ross - saying Australia's emissions are about 1 per cent so why bother? - makes sense if you see Australia in isolation. But there are, probably, another 20 or so countries that also emit 1 per cent. Taken in total, you have a significant 20 per cent of global emissions. However, I agree with Ross in one sense. Australia should be focused on developing ways and technology to help the large emitting countries reduce their emissions. And earning a few export dollars along the way." - John
"There should be a fair tax on all resource exports, not the token amount they are currently paying and we should always ensure we have enough for our own needs. Essential services such as electricity should never have been privatised. If people were receiving a fair wage that allowed them to keep pace with inflation and save, then more people would be willing to work, where currently for many it is cheaper to stay at home than go to work. Fix this problem and you won't need to import so many workers." - Murray
"Surely it is time for the states to hand over health care to the Commonwealth. Medicare is totally Commonwealth. Why do we need to have the states involved in some aspects of health care but not others?" - Arthur
"There is a lot said about bringing skilled migrants from places like Sri Lanka, but what about bringing the unskilled as well and training them here? They are usually unskilled because they haven't had opportunity. It's a shame there isn't an agreement between all western countries to take a quota of refugees, according to our wealth, and be bound to it. This would go a long way to alleviate the crisis." - Helen
"Couldn't agree more with your comments on Sri Lanka situation. The way to stop the boats is to get rid of the conditions that cause people to flee their own country. Or assist them with the move to a new country." - David
"Privatisation of the energy market is not the problem, it's the lack of 'real competition'. I should be able to get up in the morning and choose which electricity retailer I want to be the middleman for the day, month, year. But no, I have to go through the lengthy bureaucracy of switching providers. It's not like they have to replace any of my wiring. This same sneaky obstruction to competition applies to gas, telecommunications, banking, water supply, etc." - Dan
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