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Rudd's summit to stimulate debate -

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Rudd's summit to stimulate debate

AM - Monday, 4 February , 2008 08:00:00

Reporter: Daniel Hoare

TONY EASTLEY: Somewhere lurking out there in the Australian community are new ideas and expertise
that the Prime Minister is desperate to get his hands on.

To help him do that he plans to hold a two-day summit in Canberra next month.

KEVIN RUDD: I think, as I roll around Australia and talk to people, there's a whole bunch of ideas
out there amongst our brightest and best, whether it's the economy, whether it's in Indigenous
policy, whether it's how we build a world-class education system, dealing with the big challenges
of infrastructure in our cities and rural areas. But there's a bunch of expertise outside
government, and we need to call forth, you know, the talents and energies or the nation.

So, for those two reasons, we are going to bring together a thousand of our brightest and best in
these 10 big challenge areas, a hundred apiece, in the middle of April and shake the tree and see
what ideas come out of it.

TONY EASTLEY: Kevin Rudd on the Seven Network this morning.

Outside of the Prime Minister, the chief shaker and mover, pulling together Kevin Rudd's plans for
the ideas conference is Melbourne University Vice-Chancellor Glyn Davis.

He concedes it could end up being written off as a talkfest, but he says he's optimistic that the
2020 Summit will help stimulate debate about important policy issues.

Among the 10 areas for discussion are the economy, the environment, Indigenous Australia and the
future of the federation.

Glyn Davis outlined to reporter Daniel Hoare why he believes the summit is important.

GLYN DAVIS: You begin to make people aware of issues that they haven't thought about. And often it
is too early to know what the right outcomes are. But once you start to see there's an emerging
issue here, you have to start thinking about it.

Think about the way climate change has taken some time to come onto the political agenda. It's been
around for awhile, there've been many voices saying we need to think about this. It took a while
for the society and out political leadership to engage with it. But we've all slowly had to come to
terms with it. We need conversations that help you identify what the next agenda must be.

DANIEL HOARE: Is there a danger that it could become just about talk rather than action?

GLYN DAVIS: That's always the risk of any conference or symposium. I guess the reason it's been
structured this way, around specific topics and a set of quite precise questions that delegates are
going to be asked to address, with a commitment to report back on each of the key recommendations
coming out of the summit so that there's real closure is to ensure that there's an outcome and not
just a discussion.

DANIEL HOARE: Is it likely the Prime Minister will somehow favour those who think along the same
lines as he does?

GLYN DAVIS: He certainly given me to understand that he's interested in the broadest possible
discussion and that there's no point having this summit if everyone thought alike and we were all
in furious agreement. It wouldn't achieve a lot.

DANIEL HOARE: Is it possible that there is too broad a canvas provided by the range of areas that
are going to be examined in this summit and that it runs the risk of trying to do too much?

GLYN DAVIS: Well it's always a potential criticism. The idea of framing 10 key topics and framing
very specific questions about each, was to try and balance the breadth of the national agenda with
the depth required in order to make meaningful contributions in any particular area.

Obviously we'll design it with the intention of being able to arrive at decent outcomes. But,
that's the risk, I mean, you have to make that judgement after it rather than in anticipation.

DANIEL HOARE: Is there a danger that something along these lines can be overtaken by special
interest groups?

GLYN DAVIS: Absolutely. One of the key recommendations that's gone forward to the Prime Minister is
that the people who attend not be represented as they're there, because they're experts in their
own right. That's important because when people stand up and say, "I'm here for this or that
interest", you destroy the possibility of a discussion, or at least you begin to frame it very
narrowly.

So, nobody is invited as the representative of, a lot of people are there because they know a lot
about the particular topics under discussion.

DANIEL HOARE: Is there any precedent for a summit like this? Does it somehow go back to the days of
Bob Hawke and his consensus style of government?

GLYN DAVIS: Well we certainly had a summit in 1983, the National Economics Summit, that Prime
Minister Hawke called. That was around a relatively specific agenda and it reflected an agreement
that was then operating between the Government and the union movement.

This isn't framed in those terms. It's a much broader agenda and it's designed to create a public
conversation that you might hope continues.

TONY EASTLEY: Melbourne University Vice-Chancellor Glyn Davis speaking to AM's Daniel Hoare in
Canberra.