Last Friday’s COAG communiqué is a friendly, if formal document. “The Prime Minister, Premiers, the Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory and the President of the Australian Local Government Association, had detailed discussions on significant areas of national interest.” You don’t say.

What might be more interesting to read about are some of the conversations taking place in the Ministerial Wing. Control of the Senate – combined with some creative use of the corporations’ law and a friendly High Court – offers some big opportunities for the Howard Government.

Corridor talk says the feds intend to grab as much responsibility as they can from the states. They are all Labor, after all. If the Coalition is the natural power of federal government, it makes sense for the feds to expand their remit.

There’s already talk about duplication at top levels in bureaucracies wasting important human services resources as the population ages. Will this be the start of the federalism debate we’ve ducked since backbencher Paul Keating pulled the rug out of the Nick Greiner/Bob Hawke reform package 14 years ago – or just another grab for power? Keep an eye on this one.