(Transcript from World News Radio)
Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he wanted domestic violence, national security and the drug ice to be the focus of today’s first Council of Australian Governments meeting for 2015.
But GST was the talk of the town this week in the lead up to the meeting of Premiers and Chief ministers in Canberra.
And as Rachael Hocking reports, it was the GST that produced a heated response from the West Australian Premier.
The wrap-up of the first Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meeting for 2015 confirmed a split among the states and territories.
The majority of Premiers and territory chief ministers agreed it had been a ‘good’ meeting.
But West Australian Premier Colin Barnett said he was ‘disappointed’ in his colleagues for not addressing the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
He argued that Western Australians feel poorly treated.
Mr Barnett has demanded his state’s share of the GST does not drop to 30 cents in every dollar in the next financial year, instead demanding 38 cents.
“The elephant in the room is GST and that’s what this COAG has been significantly about. You’ve probably heard me before, so I’ll spare you the story, but I want to make a number of brief observations.The first is it is not the Premiers, it is the Commonwealth which distributes the GST on the advice of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. The Premiers have no role. We can bicker and argue, but it’s to no effect.”
Prime Minister Abbott says he ‘sympathises’ with WA’s position, but reiterated that while the GST is distributed under Commonwealth law, it can not be changed without the consent of all states.
A letter from every state and territory treasurer, except WA, sent prior to the COAG meeting asked that the GST distribution isn’t changed.
Mr Abbott says it has been resolved to refer the GST distribution issue to a federation policy process, with further discussions to be held in mid-July involving all the states and territories.
The Northern Territory’s Chief Minister Adam Giles highlighted his thoughts on the issue with no subtlety, saying he wasn’t looking forward to hearing states complaining about funding.
But Mr Giles was happy with the outcome of discussions on another issue – the illicit drug ice, or methamphetine.
“I’m particularly excited to see a new strike force between the Northern Territory and the Commonwealth Government looking at ice in the Northern Territory and what we can do in a cross-border role to stop ice coming into the Northern Territory and the challenges of that potentially getting out to remote communities.”
Another issue leaders were in agreement over was the need for a national approach on domestic violence.
There’s to be a new scheme to allow Domestic Violence Orders to be issued across states.
There will also be a new campaign against the online oppression of women and children, with hopes it can be implemented within 12 months.
Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews says the focus of the campaign will focus on how men view women.
“It’s about a much deeper and broader issue and that is we view women, particularly the way men view women. I’ve long thought, and I think we can all agree, that outcomes for women are all too often the product of attitudes towards women.”
On counter-terrorism, the Prime Minister praised ASIO and the country’s police forces, declaring they have never been more effective.
But he repeated the focus needs to be on those who are susceptible to what he calls death cult ideology.
“It’s also important to try to ensure that the mindset which is susceptible to the death cult ideology is tackled as well, and we have to drain the swamp, if you like, of extremism as well as ensure that the nasties hiding in the swamp are dealt with whenever they’re attempting to emerge.”
All leaders also noted the contribution a strong Australian ship-building industry could make to strengthening industrial capacity, employment and specialist skills.