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Thursday, 23 October 2008
Page: 3


Mr SWAN (Treasurer) (9:19 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

Mr Speaker, the COAG Reform Fund Bill 2008 establishes the COAG Reform Fund for the purpose of disbursing funds to the states and territories. The Rudd government is pursuing significant reforms to the architecture of Commonwealth-state financial relations, to end the blame game and to modernise the Federation.

The reforms are geared towards achieving two essential outcomes: increasing productivity and sustained improvements in the efficiency and quality of services for all Australians. The reforms to the Commonwealth-state relations will be the platform on which significant policy change is delivered in Australia in key areas such as education, health and infrastructure. The COAG Reform Fund forms a key part of these broader architectural reforms.

Where the Building Australia Fund, the Health and Hospitals Fund or the Education Investment Fund is used to finance projects by the states, money will be channelled from the nation-building fund to the state or territory via the COAG Reform Fund. The COAG Reform Fund will also be used to disburse funding provided in future budgets to the states and territories for areas of specific reform.

Payments through the COAG Reform Fund will require a written agreement between the Commonwealth and the recipient jurisdiction, setting out the terms and conditions of the payment. These terms and conditions will include payment amounts and performance benchmarks, the achievement of which, in the case of national partnership reward payments, will be assessed by the independent COAG Reform Council. Where the COAG Reform Fund is used to disburse grants from one of the nation-building funds, terms and conditions of financial assistance will be contained in written agreements made under the Nation-building Funds Act 2008.

Mr Speaker, through the Council of Australian Governments the Rudd government is delivering on its promise to end the blame game and modernise the Federation, to build the productive capacity of the economy and to deliver better services to all Australians. The COAG Reform Fund will be an important tool in acting on these important commitments.

Mr Speaker, full details of these measures are contained in the explanatory memorandum. I commend the bill to the House.

Debate (on motion by Mr Lindsay) adjourned.