Monday, April 21, 2008

Australia 2020 Summit Ideas

The 2020 Summit held in Canberra has finished. Each of the 10 working groups has threshed out the wording of its "big idea". Some of them, listed below, are similar to Labor Party policy. The Main Idea Areas were: Productivity; The Economy; Environment; Rural; Health; Families; Indigenous; Creative Australia; Governance and Security.

The initial report can be read here., at the 2020 site. The 202Summit site will later publish the full report.

Let me comment on one area - Governance. Yes, the move to a republic was its top recommendation, including some suggested steps. This is the one that got all the headlines - well, it IS the major idea. But there were other ideas that will help strengthen the foundations of our democracy:
  • a Bill of Rights: worth further discussion, but it should be noted that such a document has not helped the many people in Zimbabwe who opposed the despotic Robert Mugabe
  • "fix" the current state of federalism: successive governments of both former Prime Ministers Keating and Howard have done much damage to Commonwealth-State relations in the last 20 years. Recovery will likely be slow, and some politicians will resist, but it is definitely worthwhile.
  • Executive (Ministerial) Accountability to Parliament: every voter knows that Question Time has been used to avoid, and not accept, accountability and Ministerial responsibility; and to mockingly abuse Opposition politicians. It is an area that needs fixing, at both Federal and State levels!
  • Freedom Of Information Laws: (as above) Indeed, many major daily newspapers report the obfuscation used to avoid providing journalists with honest and open responses to questions.
  • the need to strengthen individual and community participation in our democracy. This one will be a challenge - generations of Australians have been turned off politics, government, and politicians because of the actions of successive politicians. This applies to political leaders all the way to party hacks who "do as they're told" in the name of "the party".
Action on reform of Question Time and FOI can be swift, effective, and at little or no net cost. Kevin Rudd just needs to allocate the Parliamentary time to implement them. A Bill of Rights and fixing Federalism will take longer, and require Federal and State leaders to , well ... talk to each other, politely!