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Australia 2020 Summit

On 4th February 2008, Kevin Rudd said:

As I roll around Australia and talk to people, there's a whole bunch of ideas out there amongst our brightest and best, whether it's the economy, whether it's in Indigenous policy, whether it's how we build a world-class education system, dealing with the big challenges of infrastructure in our cities and rural areas.

But there's a bunch of expertise outside government, and we need to call forth the talents and energies or the nation.

So for those two reasons, we are going to bring together 1,000 of our brightest and best in these 10 big challenge areas, 100 apiece, in the middle of April, and shake the tree and see what ideas come out of it.

The ten critical areas of discussion are:

  • Australian Economy - future directions for the Australian economy – including education, skills, training, science and innovation as part of the nation’s productivity agenda
  • Infrastructure - economic infrastructure, the digital economy and the future of our cities
  • Sustainability and Climate Change - population, sustainability, climate change and water
  • Rural Australia - future directions for rural industries and rural communities
  • Health - a long-term national health strategy – including the challenges of preventative health, workforce planning and the ageing population
  • Communities and Families - strengthening communities, supporting families and social inclusion
  • Indigenous Australia - options for the future of Indigenous Australia
  • Creative Australia - towards a creative Australia: the future of the arts, film and design
  • Governance - 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
  • Australia's Future in the World - Australia’s future security and prosperity in a rapidly changing region and world

Are any Webdiarists thinking of nominating or making submissions? Even if nobody is interested in participating at that level, this could be a good time to have a conversation about some or all of the summit topics. Meanwhile, from the website:

Australia 2020 Summit

Welcome to the website for the Australia 2020 Summit.

This is an important initiative to harness the best ideas for building a modern Australia that is ready for the challenges of the 21 st century.

With the complex challenges that Australia is facing, we need to get the best ideas we can from all Australians – business people, experts, community leaders – and just ordinary Australians.

I know from travelling around the nation that many of the most creative solutions to our big future challenges are in the minds of Australians whose voices normally aren’t heard in our national Parliament.

The Summit will help us shape a long term strategy for the nation’s future – covering the economy, the nation’s infrastructure, our environment, our farmers, health care, indigenous Australians, the arts, national security, how we improve our system of government, and how we strengthen our communities and ensure nobody is left out of Australia’s future.

It’s a big agenda, but we need to think big.

The new century has thrown up enormous challenges, as well as breathtaking opportunities. The ground rules of economic success are being re-written with the rise of nations like China and India. New technologies are continuing to transform our work lives, our social lives and everything from health care to entertainment. Our own society is changing rapidly as well as we live longer and expect greater fulfilment in our older years.

I invite all Australians to contribute their ideas as we look ahead to how Australia will tackle all these challenges. This website is a great way for you to have input to how we plan for our common future.

If we want to shape the kind of nation Australia will be in 2020, the work needs to start now. There are few limits to Australia’s future potential – now is the time to start turning our nation’s potential into a reality.


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Sharing ideas

Participants in the Prime Minister's 2020 summit have begun sharing their ideas for the nation's future.

The summit began this morning with an Indigenous welcome to country ceremony, before Mr Rudd told delegates he wanted the event to "throw open the windows of our democracy" and find insights into a "new way of governing our nation".

I have been watching the live coverage on ABC2 this afternoon. Fascinating to watch. What a difference we've had since the change of government. A thousand of our finest getting together to build a better future. No party politics, just hard work trying to nut out solutions to very difficult issues. I think we should hold these events more often, maybe every two years to check on progress and any new ideas. A good idea might be to keep 500 and bring in another 500 every couple of years to keep up continuity. It's brilliant and an excellent way of help all to participate in our democracy.

John who?


John Pratt, this weekend is turning out to be the Cate Blanchett fest.

I would have thought the last thing we need is more local content in TV. Can you imagine Kath & Kim 7 days a week? Rudd & Co will only accept that which will suit the ALP.

Couldn't organise a party in a plastic bag

The federal Minister for the Environment, Peter Garrett, defended the outcome on plastic bags - a working group to look at increasing the use of reusable bags and more research on biodegradable bags - as "substantial and positive". "We felt a mandated charge on plastic bags is another cost for Australian communities who are feeling the pinch.

What a doofus. If Peter Garrett things the cost of plastic bags will "pinch" Australian communities, wait till they get going on CO2 emissions trading.

Now, remember this press release?

COAG also made a major breakthrough on water with the agreement to a Memorandum of Understanding on Murray-Darling Basin Reform. This agreement will now enable the necessary action to address over allocation, improve environmental outcomes, and enhance the efficiency of irrigation in a concerted effort to achieve an environmentally-sustainable future for the Basin.

 - Kevin Rudd, 26 March 2008

 The new era in Commonwealth-State relations.

Gosh, I wonder why they couldn't organise an outcome like the  Murray-Darling Basin Reform?

Oh, that's right. Howard's mob did it for them.

Beyond Forums

I see in the Age today, 17th April, there have been 8782 submissions to the 2020 Summit, from the supremely whacky to the supremely hopeful. Will anything that eventually happens, as a result, not have happened anyway? I’m sure the government’s plan was well intended but ….

Today we have forums galore, including newspaper letter and opinion pages, radio-talkback, etc etc. There must be literally hundreds of these safety valves, in which to express our criticisms of government, plans for its betterment and hopes for the future. Is anyone listening, who might possibly implement these heartfelt yearnings? 

Today the Age also states that a poll of 1000 voters gives confidence in Federal Parliament a score of 10%. Confusion and indecision reigns amidst public disquiet,   while turmoil holds justice and peace to ransom among the nations.

What is lacking?   What can marry the struggling genius of public concern and opinion with the decision-making power invested in our parliaments, to produce sanity of decisions, and the public calm of confidence in government?

Connection is the missing link. We are disconnected by the party system, and its adherents, treating us as irrelevant except for voting at elections as they want us to. Platforms and promises replace people involvement and representative accountability. And we let it happen.

Whatever problem in governance you care to name you can trace the problem to party politics. If we get rid of that we will have no need for the multitude of forums continually accumulating to no substantive purpose. We need the best and the brightest of us, present in our local forums, contributing their important understanding where it can connect with each representative in real time, and with the effect it deserves, backed by the growing understanding and the importunity of a confident community.

Thus the forums we need are twofold only.

1. We need parliament to be a real forum, freed from the rigid thinking of party   politics, with the introduction of the ballot to decide all issues and immediately making all representatives independent, with a keen interest in cultivating  their constituents in public meetings which they themselves will immediately commence convening.

2. We will then have a regular local forum in each place, conducted by each representative, where community interaction will flourish, and all matters of community concern will be progressively brought to light, from big to little and back again. The interaction in these meetings will grow to involve more than the politics we currently know. No problem will be neglected. In this interaction of the people with both their representative (vertically) and each other (horizontally), each participating member of the community will mature in citizen responsibility and unity, with the bonus of real satisfaction and self worth - the place to be – where the real action is.

This is the real goal of a resurrected democracy – for the people to be able to participate in wide-ranging discussions covering every conceivable community problem and to know that their representative is on their side – a ‘statesman’ who will convey all their relevant concerns to the place of power, where important problems can be resolved with ethics, promoting community and national harmony.

Time for a new 'New Relationship' with Indigenous Australia

"They also proposed a new relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians."

So, as was predicted, the Sorry Day stunt achieved nothing, either. At least the Kids Summit got that much right.

Actually, looking back at that earlier prediction about the Sorry Day stunt, I also said this:

"Then there'll be another media sensation about child molesters in outback communities."

There have been several since then, but you didn't need a crystal ball....

'New Relationship' with Indigenous Australia

"So, as was predicted, the Sorry Day stunt achieved nothing, either."

Not so. The new relationship proposed could only be built on the basis of the apology delivered on Sorry Day.

Youth summit has 10 main ideas.

From 40 main ideas, the list has been narrowed down to just 10, and among them, a paid parental leave program for everyone.

They also proposed a new relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

"I'd really like to see that brought forward and get a treaty signed," summit delegate Kenneth Torres said.

The delegates have suggested a system where local governments would get financial incentives for environmental improvements.

There was also a proposal for a national settlement strategy for refugees and migrants.

"How are we going to maintain this influx of refugees? How are we going to accommodate them? What services can we provide to them?" another delegate, Sam Hadid, asked.

The summit has also highlighted the importance of the arts, calling for a new funding model.

"Project-based funding is not a sustainable way of funding long-term creativity and innovation," delegate Elliot Bledsoe said.

The question now is whether these ideas will be listened to at next week's main summit or whether they will get lost in the mix.

The Government is adamant that the views will be taken seriously.

"If we use our heads and not just rush into knee-jerk policy reactions, we can actually fix the problems," Anthony Fowler said.

I hope the main event comes up with ideas similar to those of Aussie youth.

A housing policy for immigrants and refugees, that's an idea. If we are going to let over 150,000 new Australians into the country each year we should be making sure we are building the extra houses to put a roof over their heads.


A forum has been set up to discuss the summit by someone who didn't score an invite.

I don't see how it will break the nexus of the existing power brokers in the various silos.  So I can't see it having much effect.  If you invite the existing serious players you get the prevailing 'wisdom'.  If you don't invite them you have no credibility.  The way out?  Lots of small experiments, nurtured and carefully monitored to try out LOTS of NEW ideas that are too small to be noticed - and hence too small to be strangled.  Then the ones that work are expanded and built.  This seems to me to be the only realistic hope of innovation (which we need desperately).

My guess is that it is an attempt to generate some publicity that the government can use to push its agenda.  ('At the summit it was recommended that we implement the policies we had been pushing' kind of thing.)

We need new ideas to face the challenges ahead.

The future does not belong to those who coast along, but those who reach out to the challenges ahead with new ideas and pursue them with unbounded energy. Let's not allow the reductionists to prevail. Let us focus our minds on change that is possible. The youth and major summit offer a chance for us to renew our commitment to sensible, constructive and creative changes that by 2020 will make a profound impact on people's everyday lives.

A torrent of ideas will no doubt flow out of both summits. Some of our greatest ideas could come from unexpected places. Despite what the critics will argue, those ideas will and do count. Such a result would honour our legacy as a hopeful nation.

Hugh Evans is a former Young Australian of the Year, recipient of the Sir John Monash Post-Graduate Scholarship and the co-chair of next week's 2020 Youth Summit.

Let's listen to the ideas that will come from the 2020 summit with open minds. The more Australians who contribute to our intellectual future the better. More than ever before we need new ideas.

2020 shows a willingness to tap into nation's brain pool.

The final barrier to a healthy marketplace for ideas is the least expected: our fantastic climate. For there is an inverse relationship between quality of climate and quality of public ideas. This holds both internationally and at home. It is no coincidence that capitalism and liberal democracy emerged from dark, damp corners of north-western Europe, or that the Scandinavians operate the wealthiest, happiest societies in the world today - they've got more time indoors to dwell on these things. Back home, Melbourne hosts a more vibrant public discussion than Sydney or Brisbane. After all, who wants to solve the problems of the world when they can be soaking up beautiful beaches or a magnificent harbour?

Happily there are signs that our marketplace for ideas is maturing. Ideas journals like The Monthly and The Diplomat are flourishing, and several new think tanks have emerged. The 2020 summit shows the Government's willingness to tap into the national brain pool, rather than run a closed shop. And a speech by the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, at the Progressive Governance Conference in London today highlights a keen appetite among the international community for a fresh Australian contribution.

But we must keep up the momentum. After all, it is only through investment in ideas - from politics, business and the community - that we will uncover the gems which define the next chapter of the Australian story.

(David Hetherington is executive director of Per Capita, a progressive think tank, and a delegate at the Progressive Governance Conference in London.)

So we spend too much time at the beach and not enough time thinking.

It is so refreshing to Australia taking up its role on the international stage. The international community is looking forward to an Australian contribution. For too long we have hidden under the skirts of the US.

Strutting the stage

John Pratt: "It is so refreshing to Australia taking up its role on the international stage. The international community is looking forward to an Australian contribution. For too long we have hidden under the skirts of the US."

You are kidding are you not, John? It sounds as though you have fallen for the Rudd spin again: the man is a dud. What about his salute to GWB? Remember how after the Climate Change soiree in Bali with Wong and Garrett making out that they had solved everything. Now we get Rudd saying:

"last December's Bali agreement on climate change was at risk of going the same way as the 2001 Doha push for global free trade, which is on the brink of collapse due to the lack of political will by individual nations". 

At Bali, world nations agreed to meet in Copenhagen at the end of next year to settle on greenhouse gas reduction targets for the post-2012 period. "This will be very difficult to achieve," Mr Rudd said. He also said "there would be no support from the US unless there was "a commitment of concrete action" from China to reduce its emissions.

Now we all know that China are not going to do anything about their emissions, so when Kev goes to China he is going to get his bottom smacked. Still, he did sign Kyoto, which he would have us believe will solve everything. One thing you can be sure of is that whilst he is in China, he will shore up any contracts to supply coal to China. Now that he is a World Statesman in his own mind, let's see him chew out the Chinese over their Human Rights record.

Commission for the Future

I'd like to see a Commission for Sustainability.

It should be possible to lay out some simple guidelines and then encourage their implementation. Things like:

  • move toward zero emissions
  • encourage reliance on renewables
  • encourage individual control over health and employment (not via a (not so) free market - which leads to everyone losing (see the US system the most costly in the world for worse outcomes than Cuba).
  • encourage working at home and pedestrian access to some access point for all essential services.  Perhaps a one-stop government shop in each suburb - with decent software and computers it should be easily do-able.

Not prescribing programs but encouraging movement for all in a sustainable direction.

This I would love to see and I think is immediately do-able and would be immensely valuable - and it needn't be terribly expensive.

I like it

I like your idea of a Commission for Sustainability, Evan. It provides an intelligent "future focus."

And I reckon we could learn from and apply the experience of the CFF in order to make the Commission for Sustainability ... ahem ... sustainable.

Commission for the Future?

The Australian Commission for the Future (CFF) commenced operation in 1986 and ceased operation in 1998.  Is it time to revisit such an institution and this time make it work?

Kath and Kim

Alan Curran, hello. Why not Kath and Kim? Because Kim Beazley's already been ruled out. And why would Kathy Freeman be Governor General in 2020 if "Australia has been a republic for nearly five years"?

I don't suppose Brian Burke will be "amongst our brightest and best" at the 20/20 get together.

2020 Vision

2020, US troops are still bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan, even though the US economy is in ruins and is no match for the economic giants of China, India, EU and the newly formed SPU. Australia withdrew its last troops from Iraq and Afghanistan when it realised we where doing more harm to the Iraqi's and Afghan's by staying. The Rudd government has  been in power for over twelve years. Australia has been a republic for nearly five years and our Governor General and head of state is Kathy Freeman.

Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, East Timor, Vanuatu and most of the south pacific Islands have become part of the South Pacific  union, (SPU) with a common defence force, currency, legal system and recently open border policy. With a population of over 100 million the South Pacific Union is a large a enough block to deter the military advances of China and India. The union was formed when China reclaimed Taiwan. The US with its large military commitment to Iraq and Afghanistan and burdened by massive debt was unable to prevent the take over of Taiwan.  Many of the Taiwanese people welcomed the  Chinese forces as the business opportunities and wealth of  China  looked  appealing to  the average man in the street who had voted in a pro China government. Many of the people of the south pacific islands have been accepted into Australia and New Zealand as climate refugees when their island homes where flooded due to rising sea levels.

Early in the Rudd government the CSIRO  put forward plans for an electric car. The government has taken over the former Mitsubishi plant in South Australia and was producing the world's most environmentally friendly car based on the CSIRO model, sales including world wide exports have soared.  The cost of petrol is now well over $15 a litre which includes a fifty per cent carbon tax. As a result most of the old petrol and diesel fleets have been converted to electric.  All parking meters now have power outlets to recharge cars while they are parked. Motorists no longer look for free parking willing to pay for the electricity. The demand for electricity has gone up but the number of solar, geothermal and wave power stations now scattered all over Australia's southern coast are keeping up with demand. Building and other energy saving regulations have been in force for nearly ten years now and about forty percent of energy has been saved through more efficient buildings and technologies.  Many of the new immigrants to Australia from PNG and the Pacific Islands have been trained and are now filling the growing demand for workers in our rapidly expanding manufacturing industry. The demand for Australian technology such as the electric car, solar power and wave power is huge. The cost of coal and nuclear power has soared and are now seen as ancient technology worldwide.

In an effort to increase production and have enough trained workers to meet the demand, the Rudd government has renewed a free education policy. This policy has been supported by industrial leaders as way to overcome labour shortages.

The importance of the United Nations is more widely recognised and  since the US withdrew  its  financial support .  The SPU  along with the EU, India and China have taken over funding. The security council has been changed with all countries now taking turns on this important council. The UN has strengthened its international laws and most international criminals are now brought to justice. Much work has been done on a global free trade system with the US look like being the last country to sign up. A universal bill of rights was brought into law and governments who neglect the rights of their citizens face justice in the international courts of law.

Since the famous sorry speech given over a decade ago the gap between our indigenous population and other Australians has been filled billions have been spent on education, health and housing. Instead of giving money to individuals the compensation was given to communities which now flourish all over the outback of Australia many tourists now from Australia and worldwide are flocking to see the outback and a culture that was nearly lost.

At the 2011 federal election the Liberal Party lost more seats and was virtually wiped out as a political force. The greens became the opposition party pushing for more rapid change on carbon emissions, so far the Rudd government has steered a course that has reduced emissions and kept the Australian economy strong.    

After the disastrous floods and droughts suffered worldwide between 2010 and 2015. The UN  agreed to limit C02 emissions to 2000 levels. Over the last five years it seems that even China and the US will be able to meet their targets. Although we will have lost about 1 percent of the land surface due to flooding due to sea level rises after the polar ice caps went into meltdown.   


John Pratt, this is not a vision, it is a dream.

 "Australia has been a republic for nearly five years and our Governor General and head of state is Kathy Freeman".

Why not Kath and Kim? It's much more plausible and more likely.

"With a population of over 100 million the South Pacific Union is a large a enough block to deter the military advances of China and India".

There are more people living in Shanghai than in the South Pacific Union, and half of these will probably be unemployed and looking for somewhere to live (Sydney, maybe).

 "The government has taken over the former Mitsubishi plant in South Australia and was producing the world's most environmentally friendly car".

About as successful as the the Solo Petrol company, and let's not forget their effort in running a department store in Melbourne, run by the nongs in the unions.

"Since the famous sorry speech given over a decade ago the gap between our indigenous population and other Australians has been filled billions have been spent on education, health and housing". 

The elders are wearing even bigger hats and now own property in the best suburbs of Sydney and very healthy bank accounts not to mention large portfolios of brewery shares, whilst their people are still where they were 10 years ago.

"The Greens became the opposition party pushing for more rapid change on carbon emissions". 

All power stations have been shut down and we have daily blackouts, and unemployment has peaked at 12%.

"In an effort to increase production and have enough trained workers to meet the demand, the Rudd government has renewed a free education policy".

Gough Whitlam is running the scheme from his nursing home bed, and is losing even more money than last time he was running things.

"Many of the new immigrants to Australia from PNG and the Pacific Islands have been trained and are now filling the growing demand for workers in our rapidly expanding manufacturing industry".

For this read KFC and McDonalds.

Dreams and Vision

Alan Curran, No one ever stumbled on to anything great while they were standing still. You have got to move. The pursuit of dreams inspires personal growth and development.

Never stop defining your vision of what life could be.

Having dreams is what makes life tolerable.

It's not often I'll agree with you

"For this read KFC and McDonalds."

But on this occasion (largely) I will. Personally I believe things will be far more complex but, Alan, you have displayed a disquietitude about the current state of affairs with regard to our economy. So what's wrong with your world? After all this is the mantra of the right; free wheeling "market economy", let the devil take the hindmost and if we become a nation of bed makers, cooks and hairdressers so be it.

Alan, I'm happy to engage you without prejudice and would seriously like to know what's on your mind. Maybe you'd like to give it some thought.

Thinking Big

OK here we go for some big thinking.

The crisis of the west is a spiritual one.  The nihilism of the academics, the idiocy of economic fundamentalism, the rape of the planet reveal horrifically and graphically the vacuum of values with which we all live.

It is a simple matter to build largely sustainable multi-age co-housing communities.  The numerous benefits of this encompass: lack of housing stress if they can be rented long-term if not owned, improved health from control over our own lives and social relationships (the two largest factors in all cause mortality).

Close down high schools.  They are largely stupid and damaging - we could at least do child minding in an enjoyable way.  "School pokes your eyes out and Uni teaches you to read Braille" (Fred Emery Australian polymath - best known for Open Systems Theory).

Citizens juries to contribute to policy formation.

Public health.  Mothers being entitled to home visits from nurses and others to assist in the first few weeks of a new baby's life.  The benefits of this are so remarkable the could even appeal to an economic fundamentalist.

Design cities around pedestrians - leading to greater conviviality, less global warming and poisoning of children's brains from cars, greater health from walking and talking to others while we do it.

Preferential water charges for those with back yard vegetable gardens.  Re-zoning to encourage working from home.  The establishment of suburban resource centres for ditto.

As to thinking of the future.  Robots interbreeding with people?  What rights do non-carbon based life forms have?  What forms of genuine global deliberation and decision-making are possible.  (How do we circumvent the nation state?  Is this desirable?)

I doubt that these kinds of things will be on the agenda.  It may lead to a coalition of vested interests on worthy projects.  This is fine and certainly a huge improvement on the divide and conquer, keep everyone in their own silo idiocy. 

The summit could lead to very worthwhile outcomes.  But innovation or big thinking.  Not in a pink fit.  Getting those currently in favour with the control freaks is hardly a recipe for innovation!

My confusion

Sorry (again) Fiona.

Fiona: No problems, Scott - my fault for not having indented. About to be fixed.

Baaa Baaaa

Fiona, I re-read the article and promise to give up late night blogging. One gaffe is bad enough, two downright embarrassing, however I was mightily relieved to be disabused about the authorship.

Yes, I saw the bit about sustainability but none of the points was about the (to my mind) inevitable decline in our living standards and how to avert disaster in the face of increasing demands for a dwindling resource, if at all possible.

Now I'm sorry, but this has to be said

Fiona: "There are few limits to Australia’s future potential"

I'm disappointed; that's rhetoric as empty as any I've read or heard. You're far more intelligent than that. Are you wilfully blind to the very strong possibility that there could be very severe limits to  future advancement? There is a wealth of evidence out there, much of it directly and indirectly presented in this forum to give the lie to that statement.

There is only one question; how to cope without abundant and cheap energy in a transportable form.

As for Rudd's "magnificent 1,000", if the likes of Dick Smith or Alan Jones get a guernsey I'll piss myself laughing.

Oh - Alan Curran, in explanation, I'm a traditional leftie not a party hack and can you please explain to me why "the intellectual right" is a contradiction in term? Whatever happened to the Jay Whites, they were preferable.

NB. There is, in my reality, a strong distinction between academic and intellectual.


Undoubtedly, Scott, but not mine - those were Rudd's words from the Australia 2020 website. It's worth remembering, however, that one of the key areas for discussion is that of sustainability.

As to the difference between academic and intellectual, you won't get an argument from me...

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