Katy uses COAG to defend capital

Chris Johnson April 14, 2012

ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher during COAG.

ACT Chief Minister Katy Gallagher during COAG. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen / Fairfax

Chief Minister Katy Gallagher has used a gathering of the nation's leaders to call for an end to Canberra bashing.

At the end of a week in which actor Guy Pearce appeared on American television bagging Canberra, Ms Gallagher used yesterday's Council of Australian Governments meeting to say ''enough is enough''.

The Chief Minister urged other state and territory leaders to remember that Canberra had significance for them.

''I made a plea for an end to Canberra bashing and encouraged all the leaders to understand that this is their national capital too,'' Ms Gallagher told The Canberra Times after the meeting.

''I did a presentation on regional collaboration talking about how we're trying to dissolve the boundaries from the point of view of service delivery etcetera …

''Part of that was telling them that we are almost 100 years old, half built, we are the nation's capital, the region's capital and we are home to 360,000 people.

''So if they could actually be mindful of that with some of their comments that would be good. And yes, Guy Pearce's name was raised.''

Ms Gallagher also presented each of the leaders with the book, The Bush Capital, and said she received some good feedback from them.

''I think in a way this needs to be put to bed as to why Canberra was chosen as the capital,'' she said

''So everyone got a book and everyone signed everyone else's copy and everyone headed off with it.

''I asked them to consider how they can be involved in the centenary and the promotion of Canberra as a place to be proud of in the nation rather than a place where you can put the boot in.''

The Chief Minister said she was also happy with COAG's support for the federal government's changes to funding for training skilled workers.

The $1.75 billion national package will see about $28 million flow to the territory.

Ms Gallagher said the ACT was well placed to meet the targets set under the new skills reform package.

Some premiers had expressed concerns the package's targets could lead to less money for their states.

But consensus was reached at COAG, with all leaders appearing happy with the results.

The reforms will give skills trainees access to HECS-style loans and add 375,000 training places over the next five years.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said the new system would be fairer and result in a better skilled workforce.

''It means that people who are getting higher level vocational skills will get the same deal that university students do instead of having to pay upfront at a time when they might not be earning much,'' she said.

''They will be able to pay later when they are earning more as a result of their qualification.

''We will move to a system based on entitlement, so that an adult Australian who lacks a certificate 3 qualification can get a training place to get one.''

Ms Gillard was praised by the leaders - Labor and Liberal - for her approach to the meeting and her collegiate style.

A dinner at the Lodge that went late on Thursday was regarded as a breakthrough meeting.

But talks on the National Disability Insurance Scheme made only slow progress yesterday, with some premiers stating there were still numerous issues to work through.

''At the moment the financial burden of providing funding rests mostly on the states,'' Ms Gillard said.

''The federal government is examining how it can increase its contribution.

''This is work that has to be done by the federal government with state and territory governments.''

COAG agreed to the red tape reforms discussed at the Business Advisory Forum to end duplication of environmental assessment approvals for major projects.

WA Liberal Premier Colin Barnett called again for a reworking of the GST payments to states, saying the current arrangement was dysfunctional. But Labor leaders from smaller jurisdictions disagreed with him.

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