The Covid crisis has wreaked havoc on citizens and economies around the world and while it has had short and long term negative impacts on many of our lives, fortunately it has also spawned some positive changes.
One of these is the strengthening of Federal – State relations. The newly created National Cabinet has risen above the historical tensions and focused on co-operation and collaboration to respond, recover, and rebuild from the health and economic impact of the crisis.
Operating at the centre of these relations, Sarah Cruickshank, as Deputy Secretary, Transformation, Department of Premier and Cabinet, was likewise positive that the national forum and unity demonstrated over recent months and that it boded well for a resetting for the national governance framework.
This was reinforced on 29 May when the Prime Minister announced that the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) as the peak intergovernmental forum in Australia would cease
and a new National Federation Reform Council (NFRC) will be formed, with National Cabinet at the centre of the NFRC.
This change is of national significance given that COAG, established in 1992, has been the platform for intergovernmental agreements
, including National Agreements and National Partnership Agreements
for near three decades.
The crisis has also demonstrated the value of working closely with experts including scientists and health professionals to not only seek their advice and integrate it into policy decision making but to have this advice included into public briefings and situation updates so that it is a reliable and trusted source of information.
Having a deeper engagement rather than a transactional relationship with the public and stakeholders is something that Sarah is firmly committed to and one that she believes will also become a permanent feature of politics post the pandemic.
This shift is also critical for relations with the private sector and Sarah is likewise working on deepening the relationship across industry and business to be a collaborative and mutually positive one. High on the list to achieve this is the importance and benefit of speedier decision making – and a stronger relationship can facilitate this.
Covid-19 has highlighted the importance of local action for containment and the importance of good local amenity as we spend more time in our local communities. State and Federal decision making, cannot be successful without a high level of respect and co-operation with local government and helping councils to provide local solutions and assistance to businesses.
The hardest task as Sarah sees it now is how to make public transport work safely while coping with the return to work of millions of people. This along with speeding up the planning approvals process are two areas the government is working hard to streamline and improve to get projects happening more quickly.
There is no doubt that the Covid-19 crisis has shone a light on the issue of affordable and social housing as the crisis is leaving many more in need of help putting a roof over their head. Sarah indicated that the NSW Government is very conscious of this challenge and is looking at ways to find solutions like build to rent and addressing the need for more affordable housing to meet the needs of key workers like nurses, police and other first responders.
Another area of priority for the Government is getting international students and trade and export back into the State. While some 15,000 students have been able to return to NSW there is more work to do in concert with the Federal Government to make it possible for many thousands more to return and be a part of the world renown education sector on NSW.
From governance and relationships to trade and export there are valuable lessons learned and positive changes that can post-Covid benefit the growth and sustainability of NSW.
Sydney Business Chamber held an online forum on 27 May 2020 with Sarah Cruickshank, Deputy Secretary, Transformation, Department of Premier and Cabinet as a part of a new series for Corporate Affairs professionals.
You can listen to the podcast here.
Media contact: David Peters 0413 872 491
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