My AFR oped tomorrow is on the summit. I’ll post it in the morning, but here are a few quick observations.
- A little to my surprise, I found talkfest 2008 to be a very worthwhile exercise. An exercise like this is never going to be able to contribute much to the most complex policy debates (climate change, defence strategy, macroeconomic policy), but its benefits came in the form of lots of nuggety little ideas, and bringing a new group of people inside the tent. Hopefully the community cabinets will continue to play a similar role in the future.
- I was in the productivity stream, about which Andrew Norton and Joshua Gans have already blogged. Within that, I was in the ‘early childhood and schooling’ sub-stream. I had hoped that we would get stuck into some of the issues about how to make schools work better, but the pervading mood of ‘don’t forget the role that parents play’ and ‘early childhood is critical’ made this difficult to achieve. My view about this is that yes, parents and the early years are critical, but that doesn’t mean that government policy can make a difference. But I’m yet to find a persuasive way of making this argument (for the long version, see this writeup of a policy paper by Sara Mead). If I were to go back in time and make one change to the way the summit was structured, it would be to keep early childhood and schools separate from one another.
- From a purely selfish perspective, the great benefit of the summit was having the chance to yarn with people like Indigenous leader Tania Major, AEU head Angelo Gavrielatos, early childhood research Frank Oberklaid, and school principal Chris Sarra â€“ as well as to catch up with old friends like Bryan Gaensler, Andrew Norton, Bill Frewen, Raja Junankar, Elena Douglas, Joshua Gans, Jen Buckingham, Macgregor Duncan and Amy King. With folks like those in the room, it was hard to see it as anything other than a weekend well spent.