Restoring a national electricity market to ensure reliable supply, increasing healthcare funding, and streamlining the federation will all be high on the agenda when Prime Minister Anthony Albanese meets with state and territory leaders today.
Morrison’s government convened a “national cabinet” of state and territory leaders during the pandemic. Mr. Albanian’s office instead calls Friday’s forum a meeting of prime ministers in a likely sign that the focus of intergovernmental meetings will return after COVID to reforming the big picture.
A point of discussion will be whether we should follow Western Australia’s lead and build up their own energy reserves to ensure energy security and lower prices.
State leaders were roundly critical of the National Electricity Market, which was shut down this week amid allegations that power generators had brought the country close to blackouts by taking electricity out of the sale to raise prices.
On Thursday, SA Prime Minister Peter Malinauskas said that the state parliament is ready to pass any legislation needed to begin energy market reform.
“We are more than happy to work quickly as a government, as a state parliament, to implement any legislative reform necessary for the [national electricity market],” he said.
The prime minister won an election on a platform to build a government-owned hydrogen processing plant designed as an energy security investment for a state hit by a nationwide power outage in 2016.
Malinauskas stressed that there was no option to present as a quick fix but said the WA model of gas reservation deserved attention.
“I think we need to look at Western Australia to see how their energy needs are met,” he said.
“They have a domestic gas reservation policy, and the skies are not falling; in fact, they are arguably in a better position than the rest of the country.
“There is a potential that needs to be closely explored.”
WA’s domestic gas reservation policy accounts for about 50 percent of its power needs, including electricity generation; the state government reserves back 15 percent of the gas available for export to the domestic market.
State labor prime ministers, Mr. Albanian allies before the election, will now push him in government to settle an ever-lasting bone of contention in Commonwealth-state relations – increasing hospital funding.
The Prime Minister will face demands to expand an additional $5 billion in temporary funding to cover the surge in demand for services during the pandemic and for more fundamental reform of a jointly funded hospital system; the prime ministers say it is too heavy.
Victorian Prime Minister Daniel Andrews said his colleagues would unite behind a push for a return to “true partnership” and that the Commonwealth would take on 50 percent of hospital funding.
means of financing
States also want the federal government to lift a 6.5 percent cap on annual health budget growth; state leaders say that would prevent vital catch-up investments.
“I will not settle for the Commonwealth government continuing with Scott Morrison’s austerity measures,” Andrews told reporters in Melbourne.
The Commonwealth funds about 45 percent of hospital spending, compared to the 50-50 split under former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
Mr. Albanese said there was “nothing new” in requests for more federal involvement in hospital funding and that he was operating within fiscal constraints after the pandemic.
“We are not in a position to do everything we would like to do right away,” he said.
NSW Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet argues that skilled migration should be increased to boost the state’s economy, and Mark McGowan, who wants more Australians to move west, will boost labpromotebility.
Mr. Albanese said he would also try to expand the new intergovernmental forum, tentatively called the Meeting of First Ministers, to include local councils – a likely hint at his agenda.
The Prime Minister is calling for federation reform, including the standardization of planning laws across Australia’s three levels of government.
Boosting economic productivity with better land delivery and planning laws that kick-start infrastructure projects has long been a prime minister’s enthusiasm, dating back to his time as infrastructure minister.
“Now that we are coming out of the pandemic, we need to look at how we can strengthen the economy,” he said Thursday. “I want productivity to come first.”