The Council on Federal Financial Relations met today in Sydney to progress issues of national economic significance and reached agreement on key Turnbull Government initiatives including the National Affordable Housing Agreement and efforts to reduce small business red tape.
Treasurers received an update on the economic and fiscal outlook. We are seeing improved economic conditions across the globe and a renewed optimism within our own economy, with recent improvements in business conditions and positive developments in the jobs market.
The Council discussed the findings from the Intergovernmental Review of Business Investment, which was prepared by Heads of Treasuries in consultation with small, medium and large businesses. Since commencing this work, there has been a welcome pick up in business investment. The report is available through the Treasury Research Institute.
A priority area for all Treasurers is energy policy. Dr Kerry Schott AO, Chair of the Energy Security Board (ESB) and ESB members Mr John Pierce, Ms Audrey Zibelman and Ms Paula Conboy presented to the Council on the ESB's recent recommendation to introduce a National Energy Guarantee. The Guarantee is designed to deliver affordable and reliable electricity while meeting Australia's international commitments. The presentation provided a valuable opportunity for States to ask questions of the ESB.
The Chair of the Productivity Commission (PC), Mr Peter Harris AO, and Deputy Chair, Ms Karen Chester, presented on the Five Year Productivity Review and the draft report for the inquiry into Horizontal Fiscal Equalisation. Treasurers discussed both reports and welcomed the opportunity to consult with the PC on their findings. The Council recognised Commonwealth, State and Territory Governments are already working on reforms in the areas identified by the Productivity Review.
Last March, Treasurers agreed housing affordability was a key priority for both Commonwealth and State Governments. The establishment of the National Housing Finance and Investment Corporation is underway, including the development of an affordable bond aggregator to provide cheaper and longer-term finance to the community housing sector.
The Turnbull Government will provide the States and Territories with $375.3 million in homelessness funding, as announced in the 2017 Budget, following Treasurers' agreement to finalise the National Housing and Homelessness Agreement. The Agreement requires states and territories to meet several basic requirements, including that they produce a publicly available housing strategy and homelessness strategy and improve the reporting of performance data to increase information sharing and public transparency. The Commonwealth will progress bilateral agreements with the states and territories, as appropriate, to support the multilateral agreement.
All State and Territories indicated their intent to participate in the Turnbull Government's Small Business Regulatory Reform Agenda to reduce unnecessary red tape, with NSW having already submitted a proposal under the agreement.
It was a constructive meeting and I thank all of the Treasurers and presenters for their contributions.