What should I do about Australia 2020?

OK, so I didn’t make the 1000 “best and brightest” going to the Australia 2020 Summit. Nevertheless I’m still very interested in Topic 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.” What should I do?

There’s still the possibility of getting media accreditation, or perhaps connecting to the themes of the event in some other way. Here’s a brain-dump of my thoughts on this sunny Sunday morning… comments appreciated!

I haven’t had time to go through the list of participants in detail, except to be pleased that human rights lawyer Julian Burnside made it and to note, as The Road to Surfdom did, that some selections are… annoying:

I was trying to be positive about the 2020 envisioning thing, I really was.

Until I read that Miranda Devine is a member of the mob considering ‘Future of Australian Governance’.

Miranda Devine!!!!!


I guess she got a guernsey in the name of ‘balance’, once Phillip Adams was invited.

Both, I’m sure, will bring brilliantly innovative ideas to the wankfest that nobody ever thunk before in the history of 20 cents a word punditocracy.

Sorry Kevin but this ridiculous waste of time and money is the stupidest idea since Friday sittings of parliament in which nothing was allowed to happen.

For me, it’s not that Miranda Devine is a “right-wing commentator” and I’m perceived to be “of the left”. Far from it.

Anyone who still uses that ancient left-wing vs right-wing dichotomy — yes, “ancient”, it was invented during the French Revolution — is hopelessly out of date and should automatically be excluded from Australia 2020 or from reporting on it. Yes, I’m talking about you, Larissa Dubecki of The Age:

Old warriors from the left and right of the culture wars are most liberally represented in the governance stream, where conservatives Greg Craven, Miranda Devine and Gerard Henderson have been chosen to line up against Robert Manne, Phillip Adams, David Marr, and GetUp! activist Brett Solomon.

Is it not possible to report on anything “political” without nailing it to that outmoded framework?

Even the 2-dimensional Political Compass is 40 years old. It’s time for something a little more relevant to a multi-faceted society, people, and political reportage which is just a little more sophisticated!

But I digress…

I’m all for diversity of viewpoint. Sometimes I agree with Ms Devine, most of the time I don’t — but that’s fine, we can discuss that.

I’m annoyed with Ms Devine’s selection because her columns don’t seem to offer much new, and Australia 2020 is about new ideas — or at least that’s how it’s been marketed. I also question Ms Devine’s ability to research and marshal accurate facts into a coherent logical argument — as opposed to disgorging a jumble of pre-conceived and largely unconnected ideas and factoids that appeal to her readership.

And I’m annoyed that selecting “old warriors from the left and right of the culture wars” is still looking backwards. It’s a clear sign that the relationship between government and media really does need a thorough renewal if you can’t get any meaningful dialog about the nation’s future without rounding up these tired old cliché-ridden warhorses yet again.

My secret hope is that Chairman Rudd has decided that once all of them — Henderson to Manne, Devine to Adams — are sealed within the marble walls of Parliament House, Canberra, that the vents will be opened and the Zyklon B will issue forth…

Whether the selection of 100 people for Topic 9 is good, bad or indifferent is now moot. We now have a weekend when the focus is on Australia’s future. After Howard’s Decade of Coma, talking about the future at all seems so refreshing.

It’s not that far into the future, only 12 years — the year when someone in kindergarten today will enter adulthood. But it’s a start. And maybe, as I’ve said before and before that, if we don’t decide it’s all fucked up before it’s even started, we can get some value out of it.

So, back to what I could do…

I daresay I could get media accreditation. Crikey would doubtless lend me their name, if not any budget. (I’ll ask tomorrow.) But who knows how many media places are available? The proceedings may be streamed live, like parliamentary committees are, which could mean covering the event from my own desk in Sydney — though it’s always much better to be “on the ground” doing separate interviews and commentary.

I’ve thought of experimenting with Kevin Kelly’s 1000 True Fans idea: putting up a proposal, calling for donations, heading to Canberra with the support of my fans and then generating the media output that those fans want. Could that work?

Or should I just cave in, and start calling it a wankfest like those radio shock jocks?

14 Replies to “What should I do about Australia 2020?”

  1. “Both, I’m sure, will bring brilliantly innovative ideas to the wankfest that nobody ever thunk before in the history of 20 cents a word punditocracy. Sorry Kevin but this ridiculous waste of time and money is the stupidest idea since Friday sittings of parliament in which nothing was allowed to happen.”

    Amen, brutha. Australia ain’t no Communist nation, the Government doesn’t need to get tips from individuals on Australia’s future — just let them do their thang, and it’ll happen naturally. We have relative liberty in Australia — that means we do our own thing, not what the Government ‘plans’ for us to do.

    Call it a wankfest, Stil. This isn’t about Australia’s future at all, and if it is, it shouldn’t be: the Government shouldn’t have the power to define our future. That’s the definition of Socialism/Facism/Communism/ any other type of Statism you can come up with.

    And I agree with you on the left/right bullshizm: at least on the two party level, both parties just offer the same burger, with different sauce.

  2. (I’m not being cynical with that last paragraph, I’m just commenting on the current state. I mean, there was an Age of Enlightenment in the 18th century…)

  3. Gentlemen, ta for the comments. I write this via Nokia N80 at The Bank Hotel so I’ll be brief.

    Richard, there’s already some kind of Fringe Summit forming, but I wonder how the creators expect to get their ideas into the political process.

    Alex, you continue to astound, and are spot on. Love the word “bullschizm”.

    All good thought-food. More later, salt’n’pepper squid has arrived.

  4. Er, would you have been so quick to dismiss it as a wankfest if your name was among the one thousand chosen?

  5. @Snif: Oh, I don’t think it’s a wankfest at all! At least not yet. I was quoting Ken L from The Road to Surfdom, who used “wankfest”, and then at the end I pondered whether I should continue in my optimism or give in to The Wankfest Meme.

    I think the Australia 2020 Summit will be what the direct participants and the rest of us make of it — and that anyone who decides in advance that it’s going to fail or be pointless isn’t giving Miranda Devine and the 999 “best and brightest” a chance to shape the event appropriately. I really want it to be successful (for some value of “success” that isn’t equal to merely “makes Chairman Rudd look good”).

    I’d been thinking I need to better distinguish between my words and those I quote from elsewhere..

  6. I’m still trying to decide how this summit looks to the rest of the world in terms of the small sample population, that obviously includes certain newspaper columnists.

    I think Kev ought to stay at home a little more and focus on real issues such as the disenchanting medical situation in hospitals, instead of schmoozing all around the world like he has. I can appreciate that he has to meet the leaders he will be dealing with, but surely these people can meet via the technologies we have today, such as video hook-ups or webcam. If the ‘common folk’ can use webcam, why can’t politicians, instead of wasting time flying everywhere with their entourages?

    My ex partner has had to wait seven months for an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon at RPA due to the waiting lists and is in severe pain, and when I called them to book an appointment I was told that it is far too busy and that the orthopedic centre is ‘swamped’. In Australia out of all places.

    What you should do?

    I think writing about it and having your ideas published to a wider stream of Australians could be the way to go.

    And Devine out of all people? They may as well throw in Anita Quigley and Piers Akerman lol

  7. @Anastasia: I understand what you’re saying about Chairman Rudd’s tour, but then face-to-face meetings always do work more effectively than video conferences. Plus they’re a whole lot more secure from prying eyes. Plus I really do like the idea of Australia engaging with the rest of the world following Mr Toad’s decade of America-or-nothing isolationism. It is, however, appalling that basic services like hospitals can’t be gotten right.

    I’ll put further thought into my own role later today…

  8. @Stil – u mean 998 + Miranda + Gerard don’t you??

    From the ABC comments “AMA anger over 2020 snub”

    is this


    31 Mar 2008 12:23:36pm

    Regrettably a large number of Australians are unable to participate in this event. I too applied, and was disappointed to have not been selected.

    However, I’ve created a website for all Australians to contribute thoughts and discussion on the Australia2020 Summit topics. It is not commercial, and it has no advertising or cost to be involved.

    Please visit http://www.australia2020.net to voice your concerns, and engage in the debate!

    not checked it out, but poss worth the look.

    Stil – is this the biggest (non Heath!) response to a post?

  9. @Bernard:Thanks for the pointer. Yet another “you can discuss he issues here” site. I reckon someone needs to collect all of this energy into one spot, or separate out the strands of thought for each theme.

    If we’re counting backwards from 1000 then Miranda and Gerard takes us to 998, sure. But then there’s a few others we can drop too. How low can we go?

    No, not the biggest non-Heath comment stream yet. I’ll add a statistics thingy later to find the one with the most.

  10. Still though, he has plenty of time to do that. He hopped on a plane the moment he won the election. And there’s no real point meeting George W Bush, he’s on the way out, his popularity rating is in the crapper.

    The isolationism was a pain, and hopefully it’s all over. I don’t know what to make of the current US election campaigns. Both contenders don’t look really great (especially with Hilary’s doozie of a lie), and I have a feeling that if Obama is the nominee, then the Republicans have a chance of winning again.

  11. Laborview is another blogger/citJ who has missed out. I thought a bit of long distance journalism might be in order. Will certainly ask Mark Bin Bakar and Pat Dobson, our local reps for some follow up comments. If you get accreditation seek out Mark for a unique perspective.

  12. @Anastasia: I must admit, I haven’t been following Chairman Rudd’s overseas jaunt at all… not enough hours in my week last week.

    @Kevin Rennie: Thanks for the pointer. I’ve added all that to my list of things to check out.

    I still haven’t really decided what I want to do with the Australia 2020 Summit. The part of me which years to do more media work rather than IT stuff is aching to go. Another part of me is saying that I’m taking on too much work right now. I don’t yet know which part will win.

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