Chairman Rudd’s got a clever strategy going, unless it’s just a coincidence. The usually-secret Red Book warns of approaching “challenges” like climate change, an aging population and the economic growth of India and China. Then we announce the Australia 2020 Summit.
As any management consultant will tell you, develop a shared vision and folks will endure short-term pain — like interest rate rises and having to change the light bulbs.
Actually I’m not that cynical about it. I’m quietly enthused. After a decade of Howard’s backward-looking short-term thinking we seriously need to look to the future. Fast. Of course, back when Barry Jones was science minister we had a permanent organisation to keep watch, the Commission for the Future. Maybe I’ll read Lessons from the Australian Commission for the Future: 1986-1998 [PDF file] when I get the time. But I digress…
If Chairman Rudd wants 1000 of our “best and brightest” in Canberra on 19-20 April, who should they be?
It’s flattering that Nick Hodge and Peter Black nominated me, bless their sycophantic little hearts. And I’ve already gained four votes at Bloggerati. I’d love to be part of this Summit, sure, because I’d be Fighting the Hallucinating Goldfish hands on. However I have a few more modest suggestions…
Before I name names, though, a reminder about the categories, and some thoughts on the type of people we need to see.
We’re choosing 100 people to work on each of 10 topics:
- Future directions for the Australian economy — including education, skills, training, science and innovation as part of the nation’s productivity agenda
- Economic infrastructure, the digital economy and the future of our cities
- Population, sustainability, climate change, and water
- Future directions for rural industries and rural communities
- A long-term national health strategy — including the challenges of preventative health, workforce planning and the ageing population
- Strengthening communities, supporting families and social inclusion
- Options for the future of indigenous Australia
- Towards a creative Australia: the future of the arts, film and design
- 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 security and prosperity in a rapidly changing region and world.
Maybe that’s not the best breakdown, but that’s what we’re stuck with. I guess it’s what the focus groups are saying.
So how do we pick the people? I reckon:
- The majority should be under the age of 40, with a significant number under 30. This is about the future.
- The majority should be people most of us have never heard of, not people in the news every week. This is about fresh ideas. This implies that communities need to start identifying and nominating them now.
- No-one anywhere in the selection process should ever starting thinking about quotas. None of this 1970s crap about “we must have equal numbers of men and women,” or “make sure there’s a few Asian faces in each group.” The selection should be on talent alone. I’m well aware that’s the most controversial of my suggestions, but if you’re still measuring gender or ethnicity at all it means you’re still classifying people into those categories.
- Don’t confuse “opinion” with “vision”. I won’t expand upon that point, or I might rule myself out!
- No-one should get a guernsey simple because they did Great Things in some field some time in the distant past. Yes, we need people with experience, but current experience — people who are shaping the future already, and who deserve a wider audience.
Right, time for some names. Here’s my first 5, and I’ll add more over coming days. I’ll list each one with suggested topic numbers in [square brackets].
- Dr Dick Quan, tutor in community medicine and tireless collector and promoter of modern art. [5, 8]
- Human rights lawyer Julian Burnside, who’ll help find the right balance in government. .
- Producer and festival director Marcus Westbury, creator of Not Quite Art (amongst other things). 
- Sociologist Mark Bahnisch of Larvatus Prodeo fame. [6, 9]
- Futurist Mark Pesce. Yeah I’ve been reading his stuff again lately, but there’s vision. Plus if I don’t mention him the bloggerati will cast me into the outer darkness. [2, 8]
I haven’t listed anyone for topics 1, 3, 4, 5 or 7 because I know bugger all about them. And while I have a passing interest in topic 10, I don’t know any of the players. Any thoughts? And what do you think my my choices?
Melbourne’s Neil Mitchell has already labelled this Summit a “wank tank”, but then talkback hosts always seem to want action immediately with thought and analysis later (if at all). Discount him. Still, if you want this Summit to matter, and if you want to get your people there, then you need to take the right action.
Talking amongst ourselves is all well and good. But to nominate someone you need to get in touch with the selection committee by… well, we don’t know yet. Stand by.
Oh, and if you’re going to nominate me, category 9 please.