For the benefit of international readers, the new Australian Government has decided to convene a special summit in Canberra to review the nation's future. The summit will be made up of 1,000 Australian, part self-nominated but then selected, broken into groups to consider specific topics. The topics are:
- Productivity Agenda - education, skills, training, science and innovation
- Australian Economy - the future of the Australian economy
- 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
- Australian 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
I am not opposed to the idea. I support Mr Rudd's moves to try to break down barriers between Government and people. Again for the benefit of international readers, this includes community cabinets in which ministers are forced to meet with people in a local area on a one-on-one basis.
My problem with the summit is partly methodological. It is just very hard to make this type of thing work in a really creative fashion. Here I noted Andrew Leigh's rather pessimistic assessment of the pre-cursor Australian Capital Territory mini-summit.
I also feel, and I stand to be proved wrong here, that my own views have become too un-representative of what I see to be majority Australian positions. To argue against those positions one has to present reasoned alternatives and expose them to debate. This is hard to achieve in a summit environment.
In all this, I think that the summit is still a good idea. Here I was pleased to see the attempt by David McLauchlan, an Australian now resident in the US, to set up an alternative on-line forum to review the same issues in a different but complimentary way.
The site may not work. But I have joined and commend it to you.