The prominence of the coast in terms of the Australian Government's policy has significantly diminished over the last decade. With the exception of planning for climate change and sea level rise there is an absence of forward thinking for the coast at the national level. This absence of national contribution towards direction setting has a filtering effect upon the states. Australia's coastal environments are highly varied and exhibit an impressive array of habitats and species. A federal role in coastal management in Australia is warranted because nationally coastal resources have important social, cultural and economic status. However, important aspects of coastal management have been largely neglected in recent years (integrated management, coastal natural resource management, marine and estuaries planning). This is evidenced by the abolition of the key federal governmental committees and agencies that had a direct mandate for the coast. It is argued that national leadership is critical to support and coordinate what has in the past a somewhat disparate and fragmented allocation of effort and funding. This paper provides an analysis of recent changes within the Australian Government and coastal management decision-making, funding allocations and initiatives and governance; and proposes a series of recommendations for possible ways forward.