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Productive reform in a federal system

Roundtable proceedings

The Productivity Commission convened a roundtable on the topic Productive Reform in a Federal System at Old Parliament House, Canberra on 27 and 28 October 2005. The invitees included senior government officials, consultants, academics, and representatives from industry and community groups.

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The federal structure of Australia's political system significantly influences many areas of public policy and their implementation. The current state of federalism and the scope for improving the operation of Australia's federation have been prominent and, at times, controversial topics of debate.

In October 2005, the Productivity Commission organised a high-level roundtable on Productive Reform in a Federal System to provide an opportunity for key national reform issues to be discussed in the lead-up to the Council of Australian Governments meeting held in February 2006.

As the Chairman of the Commission, Gary Banks, observed in opening the Roundtable, 'federal systems of government have some important strengths and can be conducive to beneficial policy innovation. They can also give rise to inefficiencies and coordination failures, such as when functions are not well allocated or governance is not well designed. Our federal system is here to stay, so the important thing is to get the best out of it.'

The Roundtable drew together senior government officials, consultants, academics and representatives from industry and community groups. Discussion focussed on issues associated with the design and effective operation of federal systems, opportunities for improving outcomes in the specific areas of health, the labour market and freight transport, and ideas about the best ways forward.

The Productive Reform in a Federal System proceedings include papers by the speakers, responses by discussants and panellists, and summaries of matters raised in general discussions.

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Cover, Copyright, Foreword, Contents, Acknowledgments, Abbreviations,


1 Introduction
Gary Banks

Part A - Institutional frameworks to promote productive outcomes

General discussion

2   Productive reform in a federal system
Jonathan Pincus

3 Competitive federalism — wasteful or welfare enhancing?
Cliff Walsh

Ross Garnaut

General discussion

Part B Case study one — health reform

4 Health reform in the federal context
Vince FitzGerald

5 Directions for health reform in Australia
Andrew Podger

Stephen Duckett

General discussion

Part C Case study two — labour market reform

6 Labour market reform in a federal system: making the best of a flawed framework
Andrew Stewart

7 Functioning federalism and the case for a national workplace system
Peter Anderson

John Freebairn

General discussion

Part D Case study three — freight transport reform

8 Furthering significant freight transport reform in a federal system
Rod Sims

9 Regulatory reform in land transport
Tony Wilson and Barry Moore

Henry Ergas

General discussion

Part E The way forward

10 The way forward

The panel discussion

General discussion

Further comments by the panellists

Concluding comments

Part F Dinner Speech

11 Time to 'get real' on national productivity reform
Ken Henry


A Roundtable program

B Roundtable participants