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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Mostly smiles as 2020 Summit wraps up

Lots of optimism, as well as ideas from the final session of the 2020 Summit just completed. I'm sure there are also tales of disappointment and frustration that we will also get to hear about soon enough.One participant told Peter Mares on Radio National today there were a lot of grumpy people in the Governance group yesterday, and the scuttlebutt was that it was proving to be the most difficult of the 10, but things had improved this morning .

The Summit has given a boost to the idea that we can and must do a lot better in many fields. Improving the way government works was a central theme.

As the Prime Minister said in his opening address:

"What we are looking for from this Summit are new directions for our nation’s future.And if we succeed, what we are looking for is also new insights into how we can govern Australia, a new way of governing our nation.Because the old way of governing has long been creaking and groaning.Often a triumph of the short term over the long term.Often a triumph of the trivial over the substantial.Often a triumph of the partisan over the positive.And the truth is all sides of politics, Brendan’s and mine, we are both guilty of this.It is time we started to try and turn a page."
Many of the reports from the 10 groups referred to a theme familiar to anyone who has worked in or around government:the need to recognise and deal more effectively with issues that cross departmental or federal -state boundaries- Tony Blair had a crack at it with his "joined up government". Easier said than done, human nature and the ways of bureaucracy being what they are.

The Initial report of the groups was posted immediately on the 2020 website and a more detailed report is to follow in a couple of weeks. The PM encouraged participants and the rest of us to use the site to join in the ongoing discussion ,and promised a reaction to all the ideas by the end of the year

John Hartigan , the group co-chair said Governance came up with about 200 ideas.The published report lists only the biggies: a republic, more opportunity for community interaction with government including through the web, a bill or charter of rights, a standing commission of experts to focus on making the Federation and federal -state agreements work better, automatic enrollment of voters, a preamble to the constitution recognising first peoples custodianship.

And open and accountable government including a completely revised freedom of information act.

Much of what needs to be done to start the change process in this area is well known and understood.Mr Rudd said as much before the election. How about it Minister of State Faulkner? Something simple, for example like telling the Treasury and other government agencies that those like Brent Fisse mentioned here a few days ago should not have to run a gauntlet of technical legal arguments when they seek to better understand the background on important new policy proposals of great public significance.

The Initial Report, with the Governance Section on pages 32-34 is here PDF 825KB

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