Summit was hardly a pinnacle

30/07/2008 - 22:00


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The first in-depth assessment of Kevin Rudd's Australia 2020 Summit has been published.

Summit was hardly a pinnacle

The first in-depth assessment of Kevin Rudd's Australia 2020 Summit has been published.

It is carried in the latest issue of the National Observer, the Council of the National Interest's current affairs quarterly.

Its author is Western Australian Rhodes scholar, one-time federal Treasury secretary and a former Queensland Nationals senator, John Stone.

Titled 'Reshaping Australia: 2020 and all that', Mr Stone assesses the April 19 and 20 extravaganza under four headings: purpose; organisers; participants; and findings.

Mr Stone firstly points out that, on February 3 2008, Mr Rudd claimed the summit was intended "to help shape our long-term strategy for the nation's future".

That puzzled him, since Mr Rudd had claimed throughout 2007 "that unlike the Howard Government" he'd be providing "new leadership" and "already had 'a plan' for our national future".

Was that untrue, or had this never-disclosed 2007 plan been canned?

Also puzzling is Mr Rudd's claim that government would harness the best ideas from across Australia.

It seems his government, which is so gung-ho about introducing an emissions trading scheme, won't entertain questioning of its so-called 'climate change consensus', despite such consensus not actually existing.

Does that mean certain pet issues are set in concrete and talk of harnessing ideas in "free and open public debate" is simply spin?

The paramount overseer chosen to chaperone the carefully selected delegates through the guided talkfest was Glyn Davis, Melbourne University's vice-chancellor.

But that's not all. He was a commissioner on the Public Sector Management Commission for Queensland's Labor premier, Wayne Goss, for whom Mr Rudd worked.

"When Mr Rudd stood down from being director-general of the office of the Cabinet in 1995, Dr Davis succeeded him." Mr Stone reports.

When Queensland Labor regained power, he resurfaced following a stint as a Griffith University professor to become director-general of the Beattie government's Department of Premier and Cabinet.

Then it was back to Griffith University as vice-chancellor and then on to Melbourne University.

As well as putting a Brisbane Labor government insider to oversee the summit, several other organisers had similar Labor links.

Mr Stone points out that, in a statement on February 23 2008, Mr Rudd claimed Professor Davis would head an "Independent Steering Committee" of 10 ministers, alongside whom 10 co-chairmen would sit.

Alongside Treasurer Wayne Swan, retired Westpac chief, David Morgan, was co-chairman. Earlier Dr Morgan worked with Mr Stone at Treasury and "had a long (although for many years covert) association with the Labor Party, and in 1982 married Ros Kelly, the Labor member for Canberra and later minister in the Hawke and Keating governments."

Another, Roger Beale, co-chairing with Climate Change Minister, Senator Penny Wong, was "the right-hand tool of [Labor minister] the Hon. John Dawkins in 1983-84 when the latter as minister assisting the prime minister...[and] was constructing what became the Public Service Reform Act 1984.

"This was the first major step towards destroying the previously apolitical Commonwealth Public Service, a change (as distinct from a 'reform') from which a host of political trimmers in Canberra have since benefited."

Another two co-chairmen were non-Laborites - former Nationals leader, Tim Fischer, and one-time Liberal minister, Warwick Smith.

Of them, Mr Stone says: "In Tom Lehrer's immortal words, both men, since retiring from politics, have 'done well in doing good'."

The same can be said of Reverend Tim Costello, brother of Howard government Treasurer, Peter, who was co-chair alongside Housing Minister, Tanya Plibersek.

There's also Professor Michael Good, alongside Health Minister Nicola Roxon, and Professor Michael Wesley, alongside Foreign Affairs Minister Stephen Smith.

"Both have Queensland (and in the latter's case, Griffith University) connections," Mr Stone said.

Then came some glitz. Film-star Cate Blanchett alongside rock-star Environment Minister Peter Garratt, and the Australian chief of Rupert Murdoch's global media empire, John Hartigan, alongside former high-flying ABC anchorwoman, Maxine McKew, now Parliamentary Secretary for Early Childhood Education and Child Care.

In other words, those steering the agenda were made up of Labor and/or Rudd loyalists, Queensland pals, movie-land glitz, plus some from the conservative side of the political spectrum, which is becoming a complete irrelevancy anyway.

The proof of that is the fact that a Labor prime minister convened something called Australia 2020 Summit to reshape Australia, but completely ignored Labor's platform.

Clearly he and his inner circle - who owe their political careers to the ALP - show no regard for that party beyond its members being called upon on election day to hand out how-to-vote cards.

What of the participants; that carefully selected 1,000 who are better described as Australia's 1,000 biggest egos?

Included were all state and territory premiers and chief ministers plus opposition leaders, a cohort of celebrity journalists, heads of Commonwealth departments who were told to be there, and Reserve Bank Governor Glenn Stevens.

Before the summit, more than 500 schools debated the issues, a national Youth Summit was held, and special meetings were had with Jewish and African community delegates.

Four key issues are said to have dominated the Australia 2020 Summit.

"Each is easy to state, but will require complex policy design, negotiation, and the involvement of the people of Australia to achieve meaningful change," the summit's report said.

These were: "dealing with a changing climate"; a "national approach" to "drive for a seamless national economy"; "developing people"; and "strengthening civil society".

That's all very vague stuff, especially the so-called "seamless national economy", whatever that Orwellian Newspeak phrase means.

But we're slowly discovering what the first one means - markedly higher electricity charges, plus far more costly petrol and diesel, the impact of which will ripple across the entire economy to boost cost of living especially for, to use Mr Rudd's favourite phrase, "working families".

The others, together, suggest Australia is about to become a nanny state where all aspects of individual, family and social life and interaction - from obesity, to alcopop consumption and the size of your car engine - will be increasingly guided by Canberra bureaucracies.

The era of top-down Canberra social engineering has arrived, brought to you aboard the bandwagon called Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard, the latter being, of all things, also minister for social inclusion.

Since such political contraptions never come cheap, expect taxes to rise.

Those tax slugs will come on top of ongoing emissions trading scheme levies which no-one - not even handpicked climate change guru Ross Garnaut - is able to fully cost.

But there's something else that will come over and above all this.

Remember Mr Rudd has already signalled he wants Australia to participate in a European Union-style Asian community.

Even before that announcement Mr Stone had concluded: "The lessons from the summit are now, I think, fairly clear.

"The tell-tale signs are everywhere. Glitz, fascination with celebrity, and use of celebrity to fascinate the public...

"Since 1997 we have been witnessing a concerted program along these lines in Britain under Tony Blair's so-called New Labour Party."

Mr Stone concludes that the road ahead will resemble Blairist-style Britain where: "You see a nation whose sovereignty has been increasingly discarded by its own government, whose parliamentary institutions have been degraded by that government, whose borders have been deliberately allowed to become so porous that hundreds of thousands of illegal aliens come and go almost with impunity, and whose politicians have become not merely intellectually corrupt but increasingly, financially corrupt also.

"The 'Reshaping of Britain' project has been enormously successful."

Cross your fingers, close your eyes, fasten your seatbelts, hold your wallet tightly, and hope for the best.

You're about to become a passenger in reshaped Ruddite Australia.


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