TODAY will see another test of Julia Gillard’s prime ministership as state leaders converge for the Council of Australian Governments meeting.
The COAG process has become increasingly difficult for the Prime Minister as she now faces an increasingly hostile group of state Coalition leaders.
It’s a far cry from time following Kevin Rudd’s election in 2007 where wall-to-wall Labor governments reigned across the nation.
Back then, you could almost feel the love as differences over federal and state policies were pushed well beyond the public’s eyes.
The opposite is in effect now.
Yesterday, Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu wasn’t backward in stressing the point about a power-by-numbers attitude which state leaders will take into this latest COAG meeting.
On top of the agenda is a discussion aimed at progressing the National Disability Insurance Scheme, with Mr Baillieu and his New South Wales counterpart Barry O’Farrell recently announcing a bid to jointly host trial NDIS sites in the Barwon and Hunter Valley regions.
He further ramped up the pressure yesterday: “To ensure the success of a national scheme of such significance it’s very important that there is a comprehensive and detailed discussion between first ministers at COAG and frankly that is yet to occur.
“All states have limited capacity budget-wise into the future and the Productivity Commission was very clear . . . that the additional funding should be provided by the Commonwealth.”
Chances are that the NDIS will become another he-said, she-said battle over who funds this important policy development.
It will impact on every community, in every state.
If political life isn’t difficult enough at the federal level, Ms Gillard shouldn’t expect a let up from her state counterparts.
We don’t expect her to bow to demands of the states – that would only further undermine her currently brittle public perception – but she will also be mindful of the need to come away from the COAG discussions with productive progression on important issues such as the NDIS, which should be considered heartland Labor
Finding an ally in difficult times is never easy and its unlikely that the state leaders will provide any let up this week.
Let’s hope that doesn’t mean issues such as progressing the NDIS go unresolved.