If there’s one issue which Rudd’s 2020 Summit will bring to the fore of the public imagination, it’s the Republican issue.
There were more nominees selecting the governance stream as a first preference than any other in the run-up to final selections for this weekend’s gab-fest. Governance – the how, why, when and by whom of our system of Federalism – is by far the most important issue and underlying theme of the entire affair. Interesting social refinements, like Kevin Rudd’s hors d’oeuvre of the one-stop kidlet shop, are fascinating thought bubbles which will undoubtedly get a mention, but in reality, I get the strongest of impressions that such issues are sidelines, even red herrings from the really important issue, that being ‘where to from here’ now that the strangling of independent expression which came as part & parcel of the Howardian era, is gone. By that I don’t mean freedom of speech issues, or human rights, although those matters received a severe belting around the head and shoulders during the past decade. I mean the expression of the ideals that we, as a truly independent nation, global presence and undoubtedly beneficial influence on the major powers, still don’t really know who we are.
John Howard claimed in August of 2007, during the last of his ‘Australia Rising’ speeches, that Australia was on “a rising tide of prosperity”, that “the new Australian synthesis of aspiration and fairness is everywhere in progress, but nowhere complete”, and that “modern Australian citizenship rests on sentiments of nationhood and enduring attachment to what we as Australians hold in common – our common language, our distinct heritage and our shared values”. How ‘distinct’ is our heritage if we remain a vassal of a foreign power (or powers) ? How aspirational can our national spirit be if we don’t pursue the ideal of true independence from the age-old constitutional monarchy? As to the rising tide of prosperity, I can only say that upon re-reading this eight month old speech again, it’s crystal clear to me more than ever before just why the conservative elements of Australia’s political governance lost the last election, and are now in total disarray.
I was most impressed, listening to George Brandis, John Hartigan, George Williams and others on “The National Interest” expounding upon their hopes for respective outcomes from this weekend’s 2020 Summit. With subtle variations on a theme, all were most concerned that governance take precedence over other considerations, in so far as considered outcomes should eventuate, with due respect to other important issues such as indigenous Australia and climate change. Frankly, I couldn’t agree more, and despite Brandis’s inevitable slide into political rhetoric, which he was clipped for by the host, Peter Mares, even this arch conservative made relevant mention to the importance of refining the conglomeration of governance streams Australia currently staggers beneath. Whether it be a re-direction of Federal largesse from State to Local, as he postulated, or a complete re-engineering of our Constitution as George Williams puts forth, the time has arrived after a long journey in a vested wilderness, for change to be put back at the top of Australia’s forward agenda.
We’ve had 12 years of ‘same ol, same ol’. This weekend provides an elevated tee from which to make a long, straight drive down Australia’s future fairway. Let’s all hope that productive and inspiring outcomes eventuate.