The Decmber 2013 COAG meeting.
The Decmber 2013 COAG meeting.

COAG talks health, security, economics, not education

THEY came, they smiled for the cameras, they were briefed, they listened, they pushed their respective agendas and then they went their separate ways.

State and territory leaders gathered for the Council of Australian Governments meeting in Canberra where topics up for discussion with Prime Minister Tony Abbott included new counter-terrorism laws, economic growth, national security and health issues and next month's G20 World Leaders Summit in Brisbane.

But one hot topic not on the agenda, for the second consecutive meeting, was the proposed multi-billion dollar cuts to the states' health and education coffers.

The meeting on Friday was the first between the leaders since the federal budget was handed down.

Mr Abbott said one of the key meeting outcomes was a commitment to more and better infrastructure.

But he said the challenges the country currently faced dominated discussion.

"We want to build the 21st century infrastructure our country so badly needs," he said.

"We also talked about the need for constant co-operation and vigilance in internal and national security matters

"They are always best faced by a country that is strong, prosperous and united."

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten said it was time state and territory leaders took the government to task over the proposed cuts announced in this year's budget.

He said they all needed to grow a backbone.

"When you are elected as a state premier you have an obligation to stand up for your state," he said.

"Their job is to stand up for the sick in their states and the school children in their states."

Mr Shorten said it was obvious the government was trying to starve the states of funding to force a debate about the GST.

"The Federal Government wants to have a GST by stealth, increasing the GST, there is no doubt in the minds of most experts," he said.

"What they are doing is they are blackmailing the states by cutting their funding."