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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 4 Hansard (11 April) . . Page.. 1027 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

I begin by detailing the matters that were the primary discussion points at the leaders forum. The meeting concentrated on issues of stem cell research and the Premiers' and Chief Ministers' plan on terrorism and multijurisdictional crime. Leaders have already agreed on the need for reform of the COAG model as it currently operates.

I do not propose to dwell on the issue of stem cell research, as it was raised at either the leaders forum or at COAG. Those matters were canvassed in the debate on a matter of public importance in this place yesterday.

Health leaders expressed their disappointment that the issues of health, aged care and education, which are of national importance, were not considered by the Prime Minister for inclusion on the COAG agenda.

Leaders agreed with the position proposed by the Northern Territory that offshore gas resources should be developed so that the net benefits to the nation are optimised, keeping in mind commercial realities.

Mr Speaker, leaders remain resolute on seeing COAG processes reformed. They have expressed their concern at both the Commonwealth's refusal to include issues of national significance, such as health, aged care and education, on the agenda and the Commonwealth's failure to provide adequate notice of agenda items or papers.

Leaders have already written to the Prime Minister proposing a number of COAG reforms, including, firstly, that COAG should meet at least annually; secondly, that when supported by the majority of jurisdictions, special meetings on subjects of high sensitivity and/or urgency can be called; thirdly, when supported by the majority of jurisdictions, all jurisdictions should have the right to nominate agenda items; fourthly, COAG agenda must be agreed by the majority of jurisdictions three weeks prior to the meeting; and, fifthly, arrangements for monitoring progress of issues addressed at COAG should be reviewed.

Leaders also expressed strong concern at the Commonwealth's intention to break the intergovernmental agreement on the introduction of the goods and services tax. They noted the Commonwealth's unilateral breach of agreement, which would undermine revenue security for the states and territories. They proposed that arbitration on the interpretation on the interpretation of the clause regarding the Commonwealth's commitments to maintain minimum agreed funding levels be undertaken by a retired High Court judge or judges. They expressed strong concern about the Commonwealth's recent decision to pass on the cost of its election commitments to states and territories, particularly with respect to the Commonwealth seniors health card and the new requirement for states and territories to match funding for the extension of the natural heritage trust, without recognising existing state and territory-funded programs.

As I said earlier, I do not propose to detail the deliberations of COAG over the issue of stem cell research. Suffice it to say that the debate indicated the depth of feeling in the community about this issue. I consider that the outcomes of COAG have due regard for the scientific imperatives and ethical concerns involved in the matter. The way is now clear for our scientific community to use stem cell research that may have the prospect of

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