2020 Summit initial report (Apr 21, 2008).


I hope you find this overview and synopsis of the 2020 Summit that took place over the weekend on 19/20th April of value. The newspapers offered extensive coverage but I believe have given undue influence and exposure to issues of proposed taxation and federalism reforms.

The synopsis below covers the entire 38 page Summit report but is not meant to cover every idea; rather the key points of interest by each of the ten Streams. You can make your own judgements as to the impact and benefit of the Summit from the key points I identify below.


The Summit was announced around 9 weeks ago by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, where he invited 1000 Australians to shape the future of Australia in year 2020. More than 3600 individuals or groups made almost 8800 public submissions.

There were ten streams covering the major issues facing Australia. The Summit report and Kevin Rudd in his closing speech touched on three themes which went across the ten streams, they include:

  • 'Creating a seamless national economy';
  • Climate change as a whole-of-government priority; and
  • Fixing federation.

The Governance stream also decided that a republic and a Bill of Rights were priorities and this has predicably received widespread media today.

The report lists shared priorities reflecting common themes across the Streams and include:
  • Dealing with climate change;
  • A national approach: participants believe it is time to drive for a seamless national economy. This will mean single national markets and approaches in key areas such as taxation, energy and transport;
  • Developing people: focused on skills shortages, child care, participation for women and education; and
  • Strengthening civil society: recognising the work of the 700,000 not-for-profit organisations and redressing Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islander disadvantage.

The Streams - synopsis of key findings:

The productivity agenda - education, skills, training, science and innovation

Major focus in this Stream was on human capital and benefits of a skilled and educated workforce and linking business more fully into the education system.

There were a number or priorities identified which are largely motherhood statements. Celebrating and rewarding teaching was one idea presented.

Some of the more noteworthy ideas include:
  • Windows on Workplaces: "Empower employees to choose their preferred workplaces by facilitating the dissemination of information about employment experience, for example work-life balance and family friendliness;
  • Parent and children centres: Communities have access to integrated services to support children's health, development, learning and care;
  • Life-learning centres: service centres supporting working age Australians with their family and career needs;
  • Creating a national curriculum; and
  • Connecting Australia's top 100 companies and schools.

Future of the Australian Economy

This Stream had a focus on creating a truly national and sustainable economy supported by 'seamless regulation'.

This Stream also advocated a 'fundamental commitment to creating a seamless national economy and single national markets in major areas of economic activity (for example, labour, energy, water, transport and communications)'.

Other major themes were the need for reforms to allow investment in infrastructure and the need for a holistic tax system that is fair, simple and efficient.

It was this group which suggested a review of the roles of the federal, state and local governments.

Population, Sustainability, Climate Change, Water and the Future of our Cities

This Stream focused on the importance on achieving a sustainable economy. It suggests that a 'robust emissions trading system and a suite of complimentary measures will be driving a low carbon revolution with Government taking the lead working in partnership with business and the community'.

One idea they recorded was to require carbon neutrality for all new buildings constructed beyond 2020.

The Summit report listed disagreements in this Stream including: clean coal versus renewables, commonwealth funding public transport and GM crops.

Future Directions for Rural Industries and Communities

The development of strategies for fostering food security and the future productivity and sustainability of rural and regional Australia was the focus of this Stream.

A comprehensive water strategy for managing water resources nationally was called for.

A government unit should be established to consider national and global food security.

The government should investigate and develop a holistic sustainable farm operational plan strategy, including an integrated carbon strategy.

This Stream again called for national harmonisation and standardisation of licencing and regulations for transport and agriculture.

The federal government should commission a total soil and hydrological survey of north and north-west Australia by 2010, to inform future production opportunities.

The federal government should explore ways of minimising the rapidly increasing costs of community public liability insurance.

Again in this Stream there were disagreements over the use of GM crops.

A Long-Term National Health Strategy

By 2020 Australia will:
  • Support the health of all Australians at all stages of life;
  • Have a health system structured around the person rather than the provider - in which every Australian has access to their own health data, and there are better and transparent data flows across all health players;
  • Have health policy focused on prevention;
  • Be a world leader in research and translation (including technology); and
  • Have One Health System - a community-driven system with single governance, management and funding.

One idea of note was the idea to create a 'Healthbook (like Facebook) for Australians to take greater ownership of their health information and electronically share it with people they trust - for example their doctor, nurse of family members. Users could control their 'friends' and their level of access, share data as desired, and ask for real time advice on health issues. By 2020 this might include sharing your own genetic data with your doctor or family. This would put the individual squarely at the centre of the health system'.

Strengthening Communities and Supporting Working Families

An underlying concern of this Stream was to recognise the work of the 700,000 organisations in the not-for-profit sector, responsible for delivering a large proportion of community and social services in Australia.

This Stream, like the Governance Stream, proposed a Charter of Rights and a National Action Plan for Social Inclusion. The scope of the Plan should reflect economic analysis of the return on investment produced by improving social inclusion.

A related idea is to create a National Development Index based on economic, social and environmental measures which would incorporate social inclusion indicators and the Federal Budget should report on this.

The Stream supported the idea of a one-stop shop for the delivery of government and community services.

A network of community hubs is needed in the most disadvantaged communities - service delivery data derived from them should assist in measuring social progress through the National Development Index.

Options for the Future of Indigenous Australia

The 'top idea' is the 'establishment of a new philosophical framework through which we negotiate a new definition of our relationship and how we might define it in the Constitution or Treaty or settlement is necessary'.

Towards a Creative Australia: the Future of the Arts, Film and Design

Major theme in this Stream was around expanding arts and creativity education in schools.

Sadly not more came out of this Stream of note.

Australian Governance

Participants set forth the ambition for a new Australian republic and a Bill of Rights.

The progression towards a republic should take two steps: 1) ending ties with the UK while retaining the GG's titles and powers for five years, and 2) identify new models after extensive and broad consultation.

This Stream requested open access to Government information through reform of FOI laws.

Australia's Future Security and Prosperity in a Rapidly Changing Region and World

Establish a regional energy security forum including all four majors and Australia in the ASEAN +6 context.

There were disagreements in this Stream on defining Australia's region as well as whether foreign language study should be voluntary or compulsory.


Many Australians expect business and not-for-profit organisations to play more prominent roles in Australia.

The overarching objectives in this report - addressing climate change, creating a national economy and enabling civil society - require substantial policy work to realise.

The Prime Minister has said that the Government will produce a response to the Report of the Summit by the end of this year.