Council of Australian Governments

The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) was the primary intergovernmental forum in Australia from 1992 to 2020.[3] Comprising the federal government, the governments of the six states and two mainland territories and the Australian Local Government Association, it managed governmental relations within Australia's federal system within the scope of matters of national importance.

Council of Australian Governments
SuccessorNational Cabinet[1]
Formation1992 (1992)
Dissolved29 May 2020 (2020-05-29)[1]
TypeGovernmental organisation
PurposeManagement of matters of national importance to Australia[2]
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull attending a COAG meeting in 2016

On 29 May 2020, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that COAG would be replaced by a new structure based on the National Cabinet implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic.[1]


Attendees at the 1916 Premiers' Conference in Adelaide

COAG grew out of the Premiers' Conferences, which had been held for many decades. These were limited to the premiers of the six states and the Prime Minister. A related organisation is the Loan Council, which coordinates borrowing by the federal and state and territorial governments of Australia.

COAG was established in May 1992 after agreement by the then Prime Minister (Paul Keating), premiers and chief ministers, and it first met in December 1992. It was chaired by the Prime Minister. It met to debate and co-ordinate government activities between the federal and state or territorial governments and between the state and territorial governments themselves as well as issues affecting local government.

COAG differed from the United States' National Governors Association or Canada's Council of the Federation, because these bodies only include state/provincial representatives, whereas COAG also included federal and local representatives.

At a COAG meeting on 13 March 2020, it was announced that a new National Cabinet was being formed of the Prime Minister and the premiers and chief ministers of the states and territories to coordinate the response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia.[4]

On 29 May 2020, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that COAG would be replaced by a new structure based on the National Cabinet.[1]

Final membershipEdit

Name Office held In office since Party
Scott Morrison MP Prime Minister of Australia 24 August 2018   Liberal
Gladys Berejiklian MP Premier of New South Wales 23 January 2017   Liberal
Daniel Andrews MP Premier of Victoria 4 December 2014   Labor
Annastacia Palaszczuk MP Premier of Queensland 14 February 2015   Labor
Mark McGowan MLA Premier of Western Australia 17 March 2017   Labor
Steven Marshall MP Premier of South Australia 19 March 2018   Liberal
Peter Gutwein MHA Premier of Tasmania 20 January 2020   Liberal
Andrew Barr MLA Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory 11 December 2014   Labor
Michael Gunner MLA Chief Minister of the Northern Territory 31 August 2016   Labor
Mayor David O'Loughlin President of the Australian Local Government Association[5] November 2016   Labor

COAG and state financesEdit

Australia is believed to be the first federation to have introduced a formal system of horizontal fiscal equalisation (HFE) which was introduced in 1933 to compensate States which have a lower capacity to raise revenue. Many federations use fiscal equalisation to reduce the inequalities in the fiscal capacities of sub-national governments arising from the differences in their geography, demography, natural endowments and economies. However the level of equalisation sought varies. In Australia, the objective is full equalisation.

Full equalisation means that, after HFE, each of the six states, the Australian Capital Territory and the Northern Territory would have the capacity to provide services and the associated infrastructure at the same standard, if each state or territory made the same effort to raise revenue from its own sources and operated at the same level of efficiency.

Currently the funds distributed to achieve HFE are the revenues raised from the Goods and Services Tax (GST), currently about AUD50bn a year. The distribution of GST required to achieve HFE is decided by the Federal Treasurer each year, on the basis of advice provided by the Commonwealth Grants Commission (CGC).

Achieving HFE does not mean that the states and territories are directed how to raise revenue or how to spend their funds. GST revenue grants from the Commonwealth are unencumbered and available for any purpose. Accordingly, HFE equalises fiscal capacity, not fiscal policies which remain for the states and territories to decide for themselves. It does not result in the same level of services or taxes in all states and territories, direct that the states and territories must achieve any specified level of service in any area, nor impose actual budget outcomes in accordance with the Commission's calculations.[6]

At its meeting on 13 December 2013, COAG agreed to streamline the COAG council system and refocus on COAG's priorities over the next 12 to 18 months. The reforms led to a removal of the distinction between standing and select councils.[7]

List of councilsEdit

At its dissolution, there were twelve COAG councils:[citation needed]

  • Federal Financial Relations Council
  • Disability Reform Council
  • Transport and Infrastructure Council
  • Energy Council
  • Skills Council
  • Council of Attorneys-General
  • Education Council
  • Health Council
  • Joint Council on Closing the Gap
  • Indigenous Affairs Council
  • Australian Data and Digital Council
  • Women’s Safety Council

The COAG Reform Council was established in 2010 as an independent body to advise on reforms of national significance. It was disestablished in 2014.[8][9]


In 2012 a group of 20 environmental organisations released a joint communiqué denouncing the establishment of the COAG Business Advisory Forum and wanted wider representation on the Forum. The groups also opposed the weakening of environmental regulations.[10]

After the forum's abolition in early 2020, journalist Annabel Crabb wrote that, after initial utility in the 1990s, COAG had become a "sclerotic nightmare" producing "communiques of impenetrable bureaucratese". She suggested that the meetings in Canberra had produced a performative element in which state premiers sought to boost their profile at the expense of actual reforms.[11]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d Hitch, Georgia (29 May 2020). "'COAG is no more': National Cabinet here to stay, PM says". Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 9 November 2020.
  2. ^ a b Council of Australian Governments. "About the Council of Australian Governments". Council of Australian Governments. Retrieved 5 May 2020.
  3. ^ "About COAG". Council of Australian Governments. Retrieved 6 May 2020.
  4. ^ "Advice on coronavirus". Prime Minister of Australia (Press release). 13 March 2020. Retrieved 1 April 2020.
  5. ^ Australian Local Government Association (2010). "President: Australian Local Government Association". Retrieved 31 March 2016.
  6. ^ Commonwealth Grants Commission
  7. ^ "COAG Meeting 13 December 2013. Archived copy". Archived from the original on 20 May 2015. Retrieved 16 June 2015.
  8. ^ "Council of Australian Governments". Retrieved 20 June 2017.
  9. ^ "On the demise of the COAG Reform Council, who will hold governments accountable for health outcomes? - Croakey". Croakey. 12 June 2014. Retrieved 20 June 2017.
  10. ^ "Australian Groups Protest Business 'Attack' on Environmental Laws". Canberra, Australia: Environment News Service. 5 June 2012. Archived from the original on 9 June 2012. Retrieved 11 June 2012.
  11. ^ Crabb, Annabel (7 June 2020). "In hoping to reform the Federation, Morrison has sailed into treacherous waters". ABC News. Retrieved 7 June 2020.

External linksEdit