Australia’s ‘best and brightest’ talk the talkApril 19th, 2008 - 4:42 pm ICT by admin
Sydney, April 19 (DPA) Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was regaled with ideas both wizard and wacky from the 1,000 delegates he picked for a weekend of brainstorming. Saturday’s session at Canberra’s imposing Parliament House opened with Rudd, into his fifth month as the nation’s leader, being told that 30 states would be better than just six.
Barrister Julian Burnside called for politicians to be legally obliged to tell the truth, and former New South Wales state leader Bob Carr said the country should follow the example of New York and ban restaurants from serving trans-fats.
The big idea from prison doctor Wendell Rosevear was that the best way to address drug addiction and ease overcrowding in jails would be to legalise all drugs.
“If we get a dozen or so good ideas for the future out of this, it’ll be a weekend well spent,” Rudd told those he had anointed as the nation’s “best and brightest”.
Australia’s international celebrities were well represented, with actors Cate Blanchett and Hugh Jackman heaping praise on each other and on Rudd for having the wisdom to invite them to Summit 2020.
Oscar-winner Blanchett, who just last week gave birth to her third child, said she was “extremely thrilled about our new government’s vigour, vision and optimism”.
Jackman described his fellow Hollywood star as not just “superwoman” but “flawless as a person” and “amazing on every level”.
Opposition Liberal Party leaders Brendan Nelson dismissed Summit 2020 as a political stunt, saying the star-studded gathering was just “an opportunity for Rudd to fill up his Christmas family photo album”.
Fellow Liberal Christopher Pyne noted that if, as asked, every delegate came to the two-day meeting with a big idea each one of those 1,000 ideas would get 39.6 seconds of discussion time.
“We’re trying to do something new,” a tie-less Rudd told his handpicked audience. “Rather than pretending that we the politicians of Australia have all the answers - and the truth is we don’t - we are turning now to you, the people of Australia.”
He was met with happy faces and a blizzard of statements that were agreeable and easy to embrace but pie-in-the-sky rather than practical.
Blanchett set the audience nodding in approval when she stated her belief in “a long and meaningful relationship between arts and government” and that “much can simply be done by imagining the arts where they rightly belong - at the very heart of our society”.
In a letter to her local paper, Sydney woman Maryanne Murray urged Rudd to get on with governing rather than sounding out the populace for ideas. Murray noted that Labor had been in opposition for almost 12 years - ample time to work up ideas and policies of its own.
“What we need is not talk but political courage,” she wrote to The Sydney Morning Herald. “The problems and the solutions have been identified for years.”
Others wondered what film stars, famous sports people and shiny television personalities could contribute to a festival of ideas.
One grumpy radio talkshow host noted that Summit 2020 came at the end of a week that had seen former rock star Peter Garrett, the federal environment minister, fail to persuade state governments to help him fulfil his now-broken promise of phasing out plastic bags by the end of the year.
Rudd has promised to respond to each idea by the end of the year. “Some of these ideas we will be able to embrace, others we will not, and some we will take in part and change,” he said.
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