Australia 2020 summit: a national agenda

Australia 2020 summit: a national agenda

A summit to tackle 10 major problems that are facing Australia has been announced by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd. The summit will be held at Parliament House in late April and is called Australia 2020.

“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,” Mr Rudd said. Melbourne University vice-chancellor Glyn Davis will co-chair the summit along with Mr Rudd. Professor Davis told reporters the summit was a “chance to have a national conversation”. The 1000 people chosen to take part in the summit will be broken into 10 groups of 100.

Each of those groups will tackle a specific challenge outlined by the government. The challenges are broad and includes areas such as productivity, the digital economy, water, health, indigenous people and services and the arts. Mr Rudd said the 1000 people would be expected to pay their own way to Canberra and would not be representative of large organisations. “We want people to be selected on the basis of individual merit,” the prime minister said.

The whole summit will be open to the media and Mr Rudd said he plans to invite media industry leaders to participate in the weekend-long summit to be held over April 19 and 20. “This is not a talkfest for the sake of a talkfest,” Mr Rudd said. He said the ideas created at the summit would not immediately become government policy and he also promised that already announced Labor policy was sacrosanct.“Our policy direction is clear cut.”“What we want is for this gathering of the nation’s brightest and best to put forward options for the nation’s future (and) to produce summary documents which we will then consider in the second half of the year.” Mr Rudd said. “We will then provide a considered response to those options papers by the year’s end. “Those that we accept will form part of the government’s long-term planning for 2009 and beyond and those that we reject, we will make plain our reasons why that’s occurred as well.”

Professor Davis says “Australia must make choices about a vast array of policy issues, often complex and connected, not all in the public life or capable of resolution by the party whip.“The shape of our cities surfaces only rarely as a political issue, but should be part of the picture as we debate investments in private transport infrastructure.

It is hard to talk about human capital without considering the whole journey from early childhood education through to work and beyond. A forum to talk about the bigger choices available to the nation, engaging national experts and concerned citizens alike, is one way to create a conversation that transcends the usual categories and players. 

There are occasional glimpses – concerns taken up by media, festivals of ideas, significant symposiums such as the Australian Davos Connection, the annual gathering of the Centre for Independent Studies and the Business Forum initiated by John Howard for the Asia-Pacific economic Co-operation forum in Sydney last year.“Yet such opportunities to bring together people and ideas for a sustained public exchange are rare. Often the discussion ends when the event concludes.

When participants gather in the Great hall of the People on April 19, drawn from across Australia’s regions, communities and political viewpoints, the tone hopefully will be courteous but argumentative.”

Australian Times

Australian Times

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