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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Australia's 2020 Summit

"Without a vision, the people do perish."
- Kevin Rudd, Prime Minister of Australia, opening of Australia 2020 Summit.

"A stand may be made against the invasion of an army; no stand can be made against invasion by an idea." - Victor Hugo.
The Australian Government is currently hosting the Australia 2020 summit in Canberra, a conference bringing together 1000 prominent Australians in various fields to debate and develop long term options to the challenges facing Australia's future. The idea is to "throw open the windows of our democracy to let a little bit of fresh air in", by turning to the people of Australia, "indigenous and non-indigenous, early settler families and those recently arrived, city and country, industry and labour, academics and non-academics, women and men, our youth and let's face it our not so youthful" to identify new ideas and directions for Australia's future as well as insights into possible ways of governing Australia as a nation.


In opening the summit, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd lamented the fact that, "The old way of governing has been creaking and growning, often and triumph of the short term over the long term, often and triumph of the trivial over the substantial, often and triumph of partisan over positive."

Mr Rudd stated the necessity of such a summit was intensified by the unprecedented complexity of the challenges facing Australia's future:
  1. Climate change
  2. The drying of what is already the world's driest continent
  3. Economic rise of India and China
  4. The rolling structural vulnerabilities of an increasingly inter-dependent global order.

The "summiteers" will discuss 10 critical areas of Australian governance:
  1. The Productivity Agenda – education, skills, training, science and innovation
  2. The Future of the Australian Economy
  3. Population, sustainability, climate change and water
  4. Future directions for rural industries and rural communities
  5. A long-term national health strategy – including the challenges of preventative health, workforce planning and the ageing population
  6. Strengthening communities, supporting families and social inclusion
  7. Options for the future of indigenous Australia
  8. Towards a creative Australia: the future of the arts, film and design
  9. The future of Australian governance: renewed democracy, a more open government (including the role of the media), the structure of the Federation and the rights and responsibilities of citizens
  10. Australia’s future security and prosperity in a rapidly changing region and world.
The summit has the following objectives:
  • To harness the best ideas across the nation
  • To apply those ideas to the 10 core challenges that the Government has identified for Australia – to secure our long-term future through to 2020
  • To provide a forum for free and open public debate in which there are no predetermined right or wrong answers
  • For each of the Summit’s 10 areas to produce following the Summit options for consideration by government
  • For the Government to produce a public response to these options papers by the end of 2008 with a view to shaping the nation’s long-term direction from 2009 and beyond.
REACTION to the Summit has been mixed. Some have called the Summit a mere talkfest (see Clarke and Dawe sketch here), an opportunity for the government to engage in a process of aimless gasbagging and backslapping, little more than a democratic charade masking the government's already pre-determined policy objectives.

Already the summit has produced some novel ideas, including the adoption of a high school by corporations, the installation of a bill of rights in Australia, the legalisation of all drugs, the move to become a Republic within two years, the overhaul of Australia's tax and child care systems, the creation of a scheme to encourage an enable renting Australians to by their own homes, as well as the signing of a treaty between "black and white Australians".

No matter what side of the fence you wall on, the summit must be said to represent a divergent approach to governance than the one employed by the previous Australian government, which preferred a highly centralized power structure, which involved leading ministers making a concerted effort to limit and discourage public debate on important issues. In this sense, the summit does represent "a breath of fresh air". In this instance, just the fact that justice is seen to be done can be comforting, regardless of whether justice actually ends up being done or not.

See the closing address here.

1 comment:

agnes said...

The Summit will bring together some of the best and brightest brains from across the country to tackle the long term challenges confronting Australia’s future –challenges which require long-term responses from the nation beyond the usual three year electoral cycle.



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