Australia 2020 Summit: Initial Summit Report


As I am sure everyone knows the Australia 2020 Summit was held over the weekend. 1000 Australians gathered in Canberra to help shape a long term strategy for our nation’s future. There is extensive coverage of the outcomes in today’s newspapers.  As a result, we thought you might be interested in a short summary of the ‘top ideas’ included in the Initial Summit Report. The Prime Minister has said the Government will respond to the ideas proposed by the end of the year.

You can find a copy of the full report here –

The Productivity Agenda

“Australia will maximise its wealth, excellence and equity by driving up productivity growth to the leading edge of developed countries..” The Top Ideas identified are:

  • Supporting kids: Overcome the public/private divide in education by, for example, funding students according to need and encouraging more private investment.
  • Extending HELP:  Extend Higher Education Loan Programs (HECS-HELP and FEE-HELP) to all students in post-secondary education.
  • 2020 Scholarships:  merit based scholarships to vocational education and training and higher education institutions in skills shortage areas.
  • Community Corps:  allow community service to reduce a person’s HECS-HELP debt.
  • Science and Maths Connections:  Improve science and maths education by connecting scientists and others with teachers, especially in our primary schools.
  • Rewarding excellence in teaching: Focus on the connections between quality teaching and productivity.
  • Celebrating teaching:  Celebrating the vocation and contribution of teaching.
  • Teaching first:  Establish a national program to attract talented graduates and career-switchers into teaching, and reward teachers for working in national priority areas, including disadvantaged communities, remote areas and in shortage subjects.
  • Innovation Australia:  Establish a national institute for innovation and creativity.
  • 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.
  • Skills development:  Employers take responsibility for developing the skills of their workforce and in return are able to access a flexible, demand driven training system.
  • Work in the bush:  Provide incentives for people to work in rural and regional Australia by supporting people to re-locate from areas of few jobs to areas where there are labour shortages.
  • Mobile labour market:  Enabling the free movement of labour from the Asia-Pacific region into Australia, underpinned by Australian workplace standards.
  • Learning for life account:  Develop lifetime participation accounts for every Australian from birth – into which the government and others can make payments for education, training, parental leave, and superannuation contributions, with capacity to go into deficit and income-contingent repayments which maximise the choices available to individuals and link flexible personal choices to a new range of early childhood and learning services.
  • Parent and children centres:  Communities have access to integrated services to support children’s health, development, learning and care. Childhood development should be supported through a place-based culture that offers integrated services and community support
  • Life Learning centres:  service centres supporting working age Australians with their family and career needs
  • One curriculum – more money for schools:  Creating a national curriculum and rationalising curriculum and assessment institutions, with freed up funds going to children in schools
  • Business – school connections:  Creating a coordinated partnership program between Australia’s top 100 companies and schools, universities and vocational education and training institutions.
  • Golden Guru:  retired people acting as mentors in the workplace.
  • Science, business and arts into schools:  Connect scientists, business and the arts with the education system
  • Australia Unlimited:  Create and organise alumni network of Australians living overseas and former foreign students.
  • Connecting Australia:  Building and enabling the use by all Australians of a world class broadband system to foster full participation in the digital economy
  • Business – research connect:  improving collaboration between public and private business, industry and research to foster innovation to OECD levels.

Future of the Australian Economy

“Australia should be the best place in the world to live and do business.  This will require urgent action to increase economic capacity through the creation of a truly national, efficient, sustainable and inclusive economy supported by seamless regulation”.  The ‘top ideas’ put forward are:

  • Review of Federation – creation of an independent body to carry out a “clean sheet of paper” review of the roles and responsibilities of federal, state and local governments in areas of major economic activity.
  • Tax Review – a comprehensive review of state and federal taxes, within a 2 year timeframe, including interim reporting.
  • Infrastructure – create a regulatory and institutional framework to allow timely and efficient investment, especially in key export areas.  A specific priority is a simpler, national regime for third party access to give up front regulatory certainty and to promote competitive pricing and adequate returns.
  • Regulation – the speed of regulatory reform should be increased, including to create seamless national markets in key areas, improve productivity and remove barriers to competitiveness, and to reduce the cost of doing business.
  • Budget – re-establishing annual budgets as the sole priority-setting mechanisms for government policies.
  • Education – there should be a single, national education and accreditation system to promote mobility of talent.

Population, Sustainability, Climate Change, Water and the Future of our Cities
“Our aspiration is that by 2020 Australia is the world’s leading green and sustainable economy”.  Top ideas put forward are:

  • Audit function – to report on governments’ performance against climate change and sustainability objectives.
  • National environmental accounts – implement a set of national environmental accounts, including carbon and water accounts.
  • National Sustainable Cities Program – the federal government could lead a nationally consistent approach to urban and regional planning which drives water efficiency and reductions in emissions.
  • National Indigenous Knowledge Centre – establish and maintain an indigenous centre focused on multidisciplinary research and program delivery pertaining to climate change, sustainability and water.
  • Popluation policy – and immigration program that works truly in the national interest.
  • Low emissions R&D – turther investment could be directed into R&D and deployment to enable a low emissions energy revolution.
  • Standards – transform the ecological footprint of the built environment by taking the lead on national planning, building and product standards to minimise waste and reduce water and energy consumption in our homes and in our neighbourhoods.
  • Measuring personal carbon footprints – Australians could have the tools to enable them to measure and manage their personal carbon footprint.
  • Market mechanisms and water – expand the use of a wider range of market mechanisms to acquire water entitlements from over-allocated systems.

Future Directions for Rural Industries and Communities

“The development of strategies for fostering food security and the future sustainability and productivity of remote, rural and regional Australia has been the focus of summit discussions”.  Top ideas presented are:

  • Climate change – strategy to use our water more efficiently.  Water security can be enhanced by incentives to improve water-use efficiency and greater use of high rainfall areas in northern Australia. A government unit could be established to consider national and global food security, looking at the context, drivers and emerging trends and new policy options.  Develop a holistic sustainable farm operational plan strategy, including an integrated carbon strategy.
  • Nationwide harmonisation and standardisation – this includes uniform regulation, licensing, standards and enforcement for transport (both road and rail) and agriculture.  Future infrastructure investment decisions should be approached from a national perspective.  As part of this, there must be broadband access for remote, rural and regional Australia.
  • Incentives for Sustainability – further research is required into the potential of north and north-west Australia with particular reference to agriculture.
  • Attract, recruit and retain people and families in rural communities – incorporation of rural studies into a national rural education program that includes life-long learning, and the establishment of centres of excellence in agricultural studies in rural and regional locations.  A voluntary business mentoring program should be established.  The Federal Government should explore ways of minimising the rapidly increasing costs of community public liability insurance.

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…have a health policy focused on prevention…be a world leader in research and translation, and have “One Health System”.  Top ideas put forward are:

  • National preventative health agency – independent health body funded by taxes on products with high social cost, e.g. alcohol, cigarettes and junk food (like a national version of VicHealth).
  • Make healthy food choices easy – may include delivering “fast fruit” to primary schools, fresh food delivered regularly into Indigenous communities, reforming food labelling, banning marketing of junk food to children, regulating the allowable content of unhealthy ingredients.
  • R&D – Promote better translation of Australia’s research efforts into commercial and health outcomes.
  • Create a “Healthbook” (like Facebook) – for Australians to take greater ownership of their health information and electronically share it with people they trust.
  • Health literacy program – i.e. universal first aid training.
  • Establish a Health Equalities Commission with a focus on Indigenous health and other disadvantaged communities.
  • Ensure better data for evidence-based allocation of resources – by abolishing red tape and meaningless routine reporting requirements; creating quality and comparable outcomes data; and then using that data to allocate resources across the system based on hard evidence. Public funding would be added and removed on the basis of clearly demonstrated effectiveness.
  • Set up a health ASEAN – a collaborative regional group to focus on emerging infectious diseases like Bird Flu, plan for and be ready to respond to bioterrorism and share learning and best practice on chronic and preventable diseases.
  • Complete rethink of the shape of the medical workforce – create a self-sufficient and flexible medical workforce for Australia with competence-based training for accreditation.

Strengthening Communities and Supporting Working Families

“The stream imagines Australia in 2020 as a diverse and respectful society that provides all people with security and opportunity”.  Top ideas are:

  • Making social inclusion a national priority- development and implementation of both a Charter of Rights (like the Future of Australian Governance stream) and a National Action Plan for 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.
  • Building and strengthening local communities- development of an urban design strategy for all towns and cities, including physical infrastructure that would encourage ‘social connectedness’.  The group supported the idea of a “one-stop shop” for the delivery of government and community services. Other proposals included ways of reducing the damage inflicted on communities by problem gambling and binge drinking.  These could include reducing the number of poker machines or tighter regulation of alcohol.
  • Supporting and empowering families- families need better support to balance work and family obligations through greater workplace flexibility.  Could include improved access to paid leave for parents and carers.  More extensive use of school infrastructure to provide care for pre-school children, more educationally-focussed before and after school care and parental education.  A national policy framework, educational programs within schools and improved cultural awareness on the part of those seeking to prevent or respond to violence.
  • Reducing disadvantage and poverty – a network of community hubs is needed in the most disadvantaged communities and which have the capacity to respond to local community needs.  Ideas include provision of “micro-finance” on a nation-wide scale to people who are largely excluded from mainstream financial services.  Another specific idea was the concept of a National Disability Insurance Scheme for people who experience catastrophic injury during their life.

Options for the Future of Indigenous Australia

“Ambitions for Australia’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples are that they will be able, productive, confident, proud and independent contributing members of society”.  Top ideas in the report include:

  • National Apology – continuation of the bipartisan commitment shown through the National Apology to inform our national dialogue in order to change the ethos through which Aboriginal affairs and interests over the past 200 years have been constructed was considered critical.
  • Monitoring Accountability – a new, independent mechanism with teeth and sanctions to monitor accountability of governments, involving significant Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander representation.
  • Indigenous business – greater corporate participation and partnerships with Indigenous business is necessary.  Increased levels of private enterprise could be encouraged in Indigenous communities through incentives such as tax concessions.
  • New education framework – for Indigenous children to get high quality education, including to attend boarding schools or hostels, enabled by a combination of ABSTUDY, private school scholarships and government funding.  Encourage high-performing young professionals to work as teachers alongside Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander educators.
  • Future Fund – investment to heal and build children’s, families’ and communities’ capacity to participate and function, fund housing and major capital works, and invest in innovation.
  • Mandatory health and education compacts – implement individual health and education compacts for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children with their families to engage parents and governments with their children’s futures.
  • A comprehensive health strategy – for trachoma, a contagious blindness-causing eye disease.
  • A national Indigenous Knowledge Centre network should be established to provide support to regional knowledge centres.

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

“We will aim to double cultural output by 2020”.  Top ideas include:

  • Link the creative arts and education – bring art into our schools by introducing ‘practitioners in residence’, mandate creative, visual and performing arts subjects in national curricula, and explore new opportunities for extension and development such as Creativity Summer Schools. Digitise the collections of major national institutions by 2020 and make creativity a national research priority with funding access to R&D.
  • Develop new investment and support models – create a National Endowment Fund for the Arts and provide a wide range of support including loans and grants, review of philanthropy and tax incentives to support organisations and individual artists and expand the scope of Prescribed Private Funds.  Fund creative endeavours through a 1% creative dividend from all Government Departments for expenditure on arts (including design, performance, installation)
  • Indigenous core and centrality of arts and design – establish a NationalIndigenous Cultural Authority to measure, document and leverage the strengths of this culture.

Australian Governance

The participants of the Australian Governance stream set forth the ambition of a new Australian republic…”  Top ideas put forward are:

  • Australian republic – introduce an Australian republic, via a two-stage process, with Stage 1 ending ties with the UK while retaining the Governor-General’s titles and powers for five years.  Stage 2: Identifying new models after extensive and broad consultation.
  • Overhaul of Federalism – including for example a constitutional convention to define roles, responsibilities and structures of our Federal system.
  • A National Cooperation Commission – to oversee and recommend on intergovernmental agreement.
  • Open access to Government information (complete reform of FOI laws) and strengthen protections of free press.
  • An online Citizens’ Cabinet.
  • Public TV channel – A public television channel with first-hand access to policy information and debate.

Australia’s Future Security and Prosperity in a rapidly changing region and world

“Three ambitions for 2020…to foster a reputation as an effective global citizen, reinvigorate and deepen our engagement with Asia and the Pacific, and ensure that the major languages and cultures of our region are no longer foreign to Australians…”  Priority themes developed include:

  • A campaign to develop regional literacy;
  • Closer economy and political integration with the Pacific;
  • Engagement of major regional economies: US, Japan, China and India;
  • Assert new leadership in global governance; and
  • Broader conception of security