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Retain national cabinet post-pandemic: ex-Premier

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The national cabinet model is a “fantastic innovation” and should be extended beyond the coronavirus pandemic, former Premier Jay Weatherill says.

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The former Labor Premier – who was ousted at the 2018 election and has since relocated to Perth to helm Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest’s Minderoo-backed Thrive by Five early childhood development initiative – today lauded “all Australian governments” for their response to the COVID-19 crisis, saying “all of them have been remarkably successful”.

Speaking on the ABC’s Radio National, he said: “I think every government in this nation deserves our credit, and one of the examples of that is the leadership they’ve shown in creating this new institution, the national cabinet.”

The forum, which has been holding online meetings between all state and territory leaders and the Prime Minister at least twice a week, has helped steer a national response relatively free of partisan squabbles, albeit some states have gone their own way on certain restriction levels and the question of schools opening has proved a thorny one between jurisdictions.

Nonetheless, Weatherill says “it’s achieved more in the last few months than many COAGs have achieved over many years”.

Weatherill, who was frequently at loggerheads with the Coalition Commonwealth Government during his term as Premier, said “if we’d had this arrangement in place when I was there I’m sure we’d have knocked over many more issues”.

“I think it’s a fantastic innovation [and] it should continue,” he said.

“We’re going to begin to look to the future – obviously we’re in the crisis phase and we’re emerging from that but as we rebuild, the national cabinet would be a fantastic way to actually accelerate that rebuilding.”

He was promoting a national approach to early childcare development, arguing “many parents are locked out because childcare fees are so high”.

“It’s more expensive to send your kids to childcare than it is to private school, and that’s just prohibitive to many families,” he said.

“I think the future involves the national cabinet using the important opportunity that’s presented to us to actually design a first-class system of early childhood development for every child. If you want to lift the general level of productivity of our nation, you need to invest in productivity of our citizens – and the best way to do that is to invest in the first five years of life.”

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