I caught on TV before the presentation of the ‘big ideas’ to come out of the 2020 summit this weekend. I sat down to watch. Earlier I had keenly read the reports in the newspaper of the discussions on different themes held yesterday. I was curious to read what they proposed, but more than anything else felt a kind of buzz at the sheer concept – of Australians from all walks of life joining together to discuss and identify the big issues facing us, and map out the way forward to 2020, to a better world for us.
And so I watched with this bubbling enthusiasm. In all honesty, I’m not sure what can be achieved in practical terms over a weekend, but was surprised at some of the detail presented – some sensible, some more bold, most, it seemed, aimed at breaking down existing memories, at making many parts one no matter what area was spoken of. This is a great start, but what I feel is the greatest single achievement of this summit is the spirit it has engendered, sense of optimism about the future, and a belief that make a difference.
Much of this is symbolic, but it is powerful symbolism which I think can create tangible results. The very concept is inclusive and egalitarian. Anyone could nominate to be part of this, no-one was drafted into it, and so everyone there had a keen passion for Australia and of the future we look to create for it. There were captains of industry rubbing shoulders with suburban mums, luminaries like Cate Blanchett and Hugh Jackman mixing it with the people who might go and watch them up on the big screen – but all with a common purpose.
What this has done is taken the big picture issues out of the usual parliamentary process and given it back to the people. Now I’m a firm believer that a government is elected to govern, and must by necessity make decisions unpopular with the broader community from time to time. There is no government by consensus, and my view on this remains unchanged.
What this exercise has done though is re-invigorate the intellectual landscape. As Kevin Rudd said in his introductory speech, it is throwing open the windows of the democratic process. It has separated the creative from the legislative, it has empowered the people who don’t get a say outside of the election, and we have harnessed some of that energy and enterprise and sheer creativity. Not all of it is going to work, but what it has down is breathe some fresh air into our intellectual society and briefly at least taken all the big ideas out of the stultifying chambers of parliament and academe and into the open air: here, have a go, it says.
I wrote the other day of how I am beginning to feel about this place again. That has become richer in me since. I get excited when I see these Australians get up on stage and put to us their ambitious vision of our future: I want to be part of it. And I am thrilled to believe that we have some forward momentum now, freed from the constraints of before and released from the narrow minds and bigotry of years past. It is all ahead of us, it feels, ours to have and to own should we choose to believe. There is belief though, much of it, spirits liberated and energies unbottled.
Now, just got to turn words into action and keep the momentum going.