Changes in the Structure of Intergovernmental Relations and their Implications for Local Government

Carol Mills, Institute for Public Policy and Governance, University of Technology Sydney

Relevance of the Practice

It is not clear how changes in the structure of intergovernmental relations within the Australian Federation will affect the status of local governments.  The ability of the sector through its peak body, the Australian Local Government Association (ALGA) , to have its voice heard in policy debates and negotiations at a federal level has been severely curtailed. The implications of this exclusion not only in policy making but delivery of essential services and partnership in political leadership, may be examined as we evaluate the efficacy of our responses to Covid-19 pandemic.

Description of the Practice

The shift from the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) to a National Cabinet structure has excluded local government from the primary intergovernmental mechanism within Australia. More work needs to be done to understand the repercussions and implications of this shift. A review of the relative strengths and failings of the COAG model, the opportunities and limitation of the National Cabinet structure, capabilities and limits of current local governments’ engagement and influence in the national arena and exploration of comparative practice and models in other countries.

Assessment of the Practice

While some lobbying has taken place by ALGA and some of the state level peak bodies for the inclusion of local government within National Cabinet, debate on this issue continues to be relatively muted. It is unclear whether the presence of local government within this inter-governmental mechanism would indeed make a significant difference to the sector or to the federation as a whole.

References to Scientific and Non-Scientific Publications

Local Government NSW, ‘Local Government Representation at the National Cabinet Table’ (2020) <>

Sansom G, ‘Does National Cabinet Really Matter? Positioning Local Government in Australia’s Post-Covid Federation’ (LGiU 2020) <>