ACT 2020 Summit

On 19-20 April, I’m fortunate enough to be a participant in the national 2020 summit. I had a prequel of what it might be like via the ACT 2020 summit today. There were 300 participants, divided into 20 groups. Not surprisingly, I joined one of the three education streams. I learned a lot from the discussion, but quickly found things descending into consultant-speak. With a group of 15 people, it’s easier to get up a vague idea than a concrete proposal. Ideas like paying teachers more to teach in disadvantaged schools, raising the school leaving age to 17, and making everyone learn a second language invariably attracted a black ball from someone in our group.

Among the ideas that the ACT summit will put forward to the national summit are these:

  1. Create more tax incentives for venture capital investment.
  2. Build a high speed Sydney-Canberra-Melbourne rail line.
  3. Sign a treaty between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
  4. Employ an arts practitioner in every workplace.
  5. Define creative arts funding as a share of GDP.
  6. Mandate superannuation to invest in venture capital.
  7. Develop the concept of a ‘wellness footprint’ and associated metrics through a central body.
  8. Promote wellness through all stages of life.
  9. Housing construction in Canberra to be the most sustainable in Australia.
  10. Raise public transport participation rates from 7% to 50%.
  11. Greater support for parents and families.
  12. Create ‘super regions’ (pop about 1 million).
  13. Equitable education and training.
  14. Recognise the importance of teachers.
  15. Redesign and reconceptualise schooling in the ACT.
  16. Canberra as a global city.

I like some of the above ideas, but am less keen on others. However, one of the things that you can tell from the above list is what happens if you put people with a single expenditure priority in a room and don’t give them a budget constraint. I have to hand it to those creative folks: they’re very creative in the ways they ask for government money.

I had previously been thinking that all one needed for the 2020 summit was a single big idea (I’ll post mine in the next week or so). But the lesson for me from today – and from the above list – is that any idea with less than 90% support on Day 1 is going to get killed. There simply isn’t time to persuade sceptics.

Aside from this, I did enjoy the conversations at the ACT summit, finally getting a chance to meet regular commenter Kevin Cox, to run into Clive Haggar, and to hear Jon Stanhope speak on Indigenous issues (it struck me that he’s one of the most inspiring non-Indigenous Australian pollies on this topic).

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14 Responses to ACT 2020 Summit

  1. Kevin Cox says:

    Andrew,

    The list of items is mainly a list of aspirations. They are not what I think most people believe are ideas that changed the world – but then perhaps that is what is wanted and if it is then it is not what I would call ideas.

    Perhaps you could look at the ideas that made a difference at some time in the past. What would they be and what would people think of them if you said them at the time. The difficulty is that no one would understand what you were talking about.

    Go back 20 years and say – “Develop an Internet connecting everyone”

    Go back 40 years and say – “Let us map the human genome”

    Go back 60 years and say – “Let us work to put a computer in every home”

    Go back 70 years and say – “Let us develop TV so that people could have movies in their homes”

    Go back 100 years and say – “Let us create mass production systems”

    Go back 2000 years and say – “Love thy neighbour as you would yourself”

    People would laugh at these things, listen politely, perhaps crucify you and then suggest let us plan to build a “Centre of Innovation” 🙂

    Hear are some ideas that might be interesting

    Let us plan less and measure more
    Let us work on constructing life from bits of DNA
    Let us work out ways to give more people more responsibility and fewer services
    Let us find ways of measuring the unmeasured

    However that is not what 2020 can deliver. What it can do is to set some aspirational goals rather than “ideas”. Perhaps you are better to try to set some goals in those terms and they might get through. My little set may include

    Each year the income distribution should flatten a little more
    no group of citizens have a child mortality rate greater than x per y
    let us have negative greenhouse emissions by 2020
    let each person get a living income no matter if they are in paid employment
    let reports of crime and disasters be page 6 stories
    let teaching, the arts, science be the professions with the highest social status
    let the government share of GDP decrease each year

    Now some “operational ideas” – but good luck in trying to explain what they mean and the possible implications.

    let consumers whose purchases pay for companies to invest in the company also purchase a share of the company
    let people opt to be citizens of any state or territory no matter where they physically live
    give responsibility for spending community funds (taxes) to the people the funds are meant to benefit
    let all the people affected by any organisation have the right to vote in appointing the organisations governing body

  2. Clinton McMurray says:

    Kevin

    They are interesting ideas and goals. I particularly like”let people opt to be citizens of any state or territory no matter where they physically live”. It takes me back immediately to a couple of my favorite novels – Snow Crash and The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson. I particularly like the idea of nation/state franchises as envisaged in Snow Crash. Though i’m not to sure what to make of “Let us work out ways to give more people more responsibility and fewer services”. Can we have more responsibility and more services?

    On another note, the thread over at LP is kinda scary. Is there any wonder why we have few so-called public intellectuals here?

    Crowd at t0: “The shortage of public intellectuals is lamentable!”
    Crowd at t1: “These academic economists (insert any other profession) should keep their tractors out of other peoples fields! (don’t mention the rent seeking, etc)

    Can’t believe you’re (Andrew) getting flamed for doing exactly what is called for. Keep it up, I say.

  3. Fork Me says:

    Andrew, I found this to be one of your most depressing posts for some time. If this is the best the brightest from the ACT can produce, we have some problems.

    Let’s look at that list again. At least two thirds of the list are little more than aspirations without strategies. In a number of cases, the problem that is being addressed is not clear. The list reeks of special pleading from interest groups (health, education, business, arts and Indigenous).

    Create more tax incentives for venture capital investment – what the long running credit glut wasn’t enough?

    Build a high speed Sydney-Canberra-Melbourne rail line – one of the few concrete ideas – if it is economic the market will respond

    Sign a treaty between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians – does it matter what is in the treaty? – I just love recommendations where the vehicle for delivering the policy outcome is more important that the policy content.

    Employ an arts practitioner in every workplace – hypothecated taxation for the arts – you have got to be joking!

    Define creative arts funding as a share of GDP – how about zero percent? – these arts types are just greedy.

    Mandate superannuation to invest in venture capital – what? – so that the retirement savings of working families can be lost to speculators – again, you have got to be joking!

    Develop the concept of a ‘wellness footprint’ and associated metrics through a central body – more bureaucracy

    Promote wellness through all stages of life – ok – will It male a difference? What stages miss out now?

    Housing construction in Canberra to be the most sustainable in Australia – be specific

    Raise public transport participation rates from 7% to 50% – how?

    Greater support for parents and families – I think this one wins the motherhood and home made apple prize.

    Create ’super regions’ (pop about 1 million) – Why? What about Tasmnaia?

    Equitable education and training – What do we mean by equitable: every child leaves school with same qualifying score? No child can fail?

    Recognise the importance of teachers – perhaps sainthoods?

    Redesign and reconceptualise schooling in the ACT – and this wins the prize for any change must be better than the status quo

    Canberra as a global city – what?

  4. Oh dear. If this is a sign of what is going to happen at the real 2020 the idea is as bad as many people say it is. 1, 2, 4, 5, 10, 11, and 16 I’d put in the too daft to be worth considering category. 8, 13 and 14 are well-meaning but banal. 6, 7, 12 and 15 look like bad ideas, but I would want to hear more before completely writing them off. 3 I oppose but understand why other support it. That leaves 9. I don’t care how people in Canberra build their houses, but they should build them closer together.

  5. Sinclair Davidson says:

    Sorry Andrew. That list shows what is so fundamentally wrong with Canberra and Canberrans – 16 dumb ideas that apparently have 90% support from the participants.

  6. Pingback: ILLAWARRA IDEAS SUMMIT « DUCKPOND

  7. verdurous says:

    The worst one has got to be “Canberra as a global city”. This is utterly hollow and meaningless. But I quite like equitable education and training.

    Clinton, the idea of state citizenhood irrespective of location is absurd. We ought to strengthen local ties and loyalties rather than move towards geographic dislocation and “the geography of nowhere” as Kunstler outs it.

  8. Brendan says:

    I would have to agree with Sinclair on this one. If that is what the ACTers have come up with, just imagine what the youth summit will come up with!

  9. mugwump says:

    That’s from the best and brightest in Canberra? Hilarious. But it does give us proposal #1 for the real summit:

    1. Seal the ACT borders and nuke the joint.

  10. Kevin Rennie says:

    Summits usually have two dimensions: the personal and the practical. There will be some networking spin offs which may have positive aspects. The hard part is coming up with “visionary” ideas and concrete proposals for their implementation.
    One proposal for 2 groups: extend recent moves to provide meaningful secondary education to Year 12 for indigenous students in their own communities. I’m sure you could knock a draft plan together in a morning. You could even start with “who’s doing something that’s working now?”

    In fact that’s not a bad start for most groups.

    Good luck. You’ll need it.

  11. Patrick says:

    There will be some networking spin offs which may have positive aspects.

    Ie, this is a list of the people with whom Rudd has yet to be photographed.

    I agree with the bulk of the above commenters that this is absolutely ridiculous. You should have been a conscientous objector!!

    I revise my sceptical optimism towards this conference to complete pessimism. I would not have dared spoof the outcome with such a classically latte-left bunch of bollocks.

    2,3,6,7,8,10,13,15 and 16 are hopeless – either incredibly bad ideas, utterly pointless and meaningless, incapabable of constituting an action or simply beyond any practical ambition. I

  12. Patrick says:

    More seriously, this should be a worry for the Larva Rodeo and other gullible optimists:

    But the lesson for me from today – and from the above list – is that any idea with less than 90% support on Day 1 is going to get killed. There simply isn’t time to persuade sceptics.

    So much for any new ideas coming out of this then!

  13. Russell says:

    Surprised (it is Canberra after all) and disappointed that there weren’t some creative ideas for improving public sector management – all good ideas have eventually to be implemented.

  14. Ian says:

    Really disappointing list in my view. I think spending the weekend mowing the lawn would have been far more useful than sitting around dreaming up this list.

    Specifically:

    #1 – why? If the investments don’t stand up on their own risk/reward merits, why waste tax subsidies, its just pissing money down the drain?
    #2 – lets have own if someone thinks its a worthwhile, commercially viable thing to do. Why HSR? Does it provide better value than say, spending the same $ on better roads, or more air services?
    #3 – ok, nice warm fuzzy feeling … but depends on what we sign up for
    #4 and #5 – lets find ways for someone else to pay for mediocre artists to play at their hobby rather than support themselves either by finding a market for their work, or doing what everyone else does with hobbies – ie work at a proper job and do the hobby in your spare time
    #6 – great, lets piss people’s super down the drain
    #7 & #8 – whatever the hell that means?
    #9 – ok, but another nail in the coffin of housing affordability.
    #10 – how and why? How about starting out providing something that could be remotely called a public transport “service”. I suspect the agenda here is not going to be to improve PT to make it worth using, but to punish car users into submission so they’ll use PT.
    #11 Ok, but what, how and why? I assume they mean hand out taxpayers money.
    #12 – why?
    #13 – ok whatever it means? So we’ll give everyone a subsidy to go to Grammar will we? Or do we mean lets not grade students, and have them all come out with equally meaningless educations?
    #14 – we do. Its called salary.
    #15 – yeah right, these are complete wank words, no doubt from an education bureaucrat
    #16 what does this mean? Make it global as in spherical shaped? Sealed inside a glass dome like Springfield in the Simpsons movie …. hey now there’s an idea (although going from the ideas generated you could be excused for thinking Canberra is already sealed off from the real world).

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