Saturday, April 19, 2008

Australia's ideas From the 2020 Summit

A TAX on fatty foods and increased taxes on alcohol and cigarettes would generate an estimated $500 million a year to fund a national preventative health agency, under one proposal.

Other popular ideas at the summit's health session included:

ESTABLISHING e-health records in a Facebook-like format for access by medical professionals across the country;

A SMOKING ban for all Australians born after 2008;

AN annual national fitness test where citizens would receive a financial incentive if they pass;

INCREASED education about how death could be a "positive experience" to avoid patients panicking when they reached hospital emergency departments; and

SCRAPPING state health departments and replacing them with regional wellness centres.

A national preventative health agency funded by taxes on junk food, alcohol and cigarettes was among the top ideas voted by health participants yesterday afternoon.

Aerial skier Alisa Camplin was among the group of health professionals who proposed the use of taxes to fund a national preventative health agency.

The recommendation was one of the most popular at the summit.

A third widely supported proposal was to establish an inequality commission to ensure accountability across the health, education and justice sectors and remove inequality gaps by 2020.


THE reintroduction of death duties and the abolition of negative gearing were among suggested economic reforms.

Other proposed measures for a tax system overhaul included the removal of superannuation concessions for high-income earners and an end to capital gains tax.

Summit delegates also wanted:

MEANS-testing for all welfare payments, including the baby bonus and the First Home Buyers Grant;

THE creation of a Reserve Bank-style body to manage the looming introduction of a carbon credits trading system; and

AN internationally competitive business tax regime.

High-powered delegates to the economy session included Lachlan Murdoch, former NSW premier Bob Carr, former Westpac Bank CEO David Morgan and former Fairfax CEO Fred Hilmer.

Session chair Dr Morgan said the priority was to create a flexible and resilient economy that could withstand the future shocks experts were unable to predict.

"We are at a pivotal moment in our economic history," Dr Morgan said.

Co-chair Treasurer Wayne Swan threw his weight behind a restructure and reweighting of taxation, saying Australia needed a "nimble, more adaptive and more flexible economy" to take advantage of a changing global environment.

AUSTRALIA would become a republic within two years under a bold plan put to the summit by Home Affairs Minister Bob Debus.

Other issues raised at the governance session included:

EVERY young person would be automatically enrolled to vote when they reached 18, as part of a strategy to strengthen the democratic process;

WOMEN would make up 50 per cent of MPs;

FINES for ministers and other members who made misleading or deceptive comments;

A REVIVAL of the republic debate and a possible vote within five years;

CHANGES to the Federation, and a new preamble for the Constitution to recognise the role of Aborigines in shaping the country's history;

THE abolition of local government and the creation of 40 "micro" states; and

A REWRITE of the constitution in "poetic but intelligible language".

TURNING Australia's expanses of desert into the world's "new oil" by harvesting solar power was among ideas for the environment.

Other suggestions included:

INSTALLING hydro-power turbines at the heads of Sydney Harbour;

RAISING employer superannuation payments to 12 per cent, with the extra 3 per cent to be invested in renewable energy development;

THE establishment of a single energy authority; and

A GREATER reliance on clean coal and nuclear power as well as renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power.

AUSTRALIA would stand on its own feet in 2020 under the big picture vision outlined by participants in the future security stream of the summit.

Delegate suggestions included:

SCRAPPING the idea that Australia was deputy sheriff to the US;

INTRODUCING compulsory language classes to better engage with other nations, particularly China;

BUILDING an independent international relations policy;

DEEPLY engaging with and demonstrating a close understanding of regional nations;

CONCENTRATING more on boosting civil society in neighbouring nations than building defence and security ties with them; and

INSTALLING women in a third of senior positions in the public and private sectors, including a female prime minister and an Aboriginal woman president.

Victorian police commissioner Christine Nixon said her group discussed Australia's alliance with the US.

"Instead of, as someone described it, behaving like the deputy sheriff, we needed to take a position and be clear with the Americans what we thought was important and the way we wanted to go forward," she said.

The need for a renewed emphasis on language training to boost Australia's global engagement attracted broad support.

International lawyer Jason Yat-Sen Li, spokesman for the group discussing engagement with India and China, said Australia needed more Kevin Rudds.

"The way he delivered that message in Chinese at Beijing university . . . was quite extraordinary, the way the Chinese reacted to that. It was reported positively in the Chinese media," he said.

Former defence chief Gen Peter Cosgrove was among 90 delegates gathered in small groups to hammer out their vision.

"We have to build an independent international relations policy," he said. "This is not code for no more alliance (with the US). We have to have an Australian view which is specific to our future.

COMMUNITY cohesion should replace the strength of the economy as the key measure of Australia's success, delegates said.

Other ideas for strengthening our society included:

A RENT-to-buy system to close the big gap between those who could afford to buy a home and those, particularly the young, who had no hope of doing so;

A SCHEME in which the government would act as a guarantor for mortgagees to help struggling home buyers;

PUBLICLY funded paid parental leave for men and women to help improve work-life balance;

THE legalisation of all drugs to help reduce addiction and prison overloading;

EARLY interventions to make families stronger and less likely to rely on welfare services; and

BETTER inclusion and understanding of indigenous Australians, Muslims and the disabled.

SPECIAL savings accounts from birth to pay for later training and education was among proposals to boost productivity.

The group also suggested:

WORK-life centres that would offer advice on transition from school to further education and job hunting;

THE creation of "golden gurus" -- retired people who would mentor newcomers to the workforce;

INCREASING teacher pay;

PROVIDING paid parental leave of up to 18 months.

The proposed "workplace participation accounts" would be like superannuation schemes and be low taxed.

They would be opened at birth with a small priming deposit and be used later in life to pay for university or vocational education.

Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard told the summit group that pre-school education was a central element of improved national productivity.

A FOCUS on rural skills and entrepreneurship, and incentives to attract people back to the bush were key themes of the rural session.

Delegates demanded:

INCENTIVES to allow more rural women to work from home and run their own small businesses;

BETTER infrastructure and equipment in country areas;

MEASURES to improve co-operation and collaboration between city and country;

INCREASED education and training to help adapt to climate change; and

MORE research into policies to make the most of global opportunities.

Northern Territory farmer Terry Underwood wanted to reverse the drift to cities and revitalise the bush.

"The outback is the heartbeat of the nation," she said. "We have to have infrastructure, incentives, everything we can do to get the bush up and running."

AN indigenous treaty and eradicating racism emerged as central themes among leaders. Other ideas to emerge included:

THE re-establishment of a national representative body;

THE setting up of an indigenous future fund;

A WATCHDOG to oversee government action on indigenous issues;

A NEW indigenous cultural centre based in Canberra's Old Parliament House.

ROLLING out more secondary level boarding schools for indigenous children;

MAINTAINING and strengthening indigenous culture and language; and

SETTING aside certain seats in parliament and spots in government for indigenous people.

Delegate Janina Gawler, speaking for her group of delegates, said a treaty should build on the government's intentions to endorse the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.

Some delegates urged the Government to establish a long-term endowment fund, to be overseen by independent trustees, to provide funding certainty for indigenous programs.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd sat in on the first session of the indigenous stream, listening to ideas and asking questions of delegates.

Mr Rudd spoke one-on-one with Queensland Aboriginal leader Noel Pearson about indigenous education and with other delegates about the possibility of rolling out more secondary level boarding schools for indigenous children.


A PRIME Minister's award for a creative Australian of the Year was a key idea proposed by Cate Blanchett's group.

Other ideas included:

TAX breaks to encourage philanthropists to donate to individual actors and artists;

THE inclusion of an indigenous representative on the board of every cultural institution;

A CREATIVE literacy subject that is central to the school curriculum;

UNIVERSAL access to the arts;

THE removal of impediments to public broadcasters;

INCREASED opportunities for artists throughout careers;

AN artist-in-residence at some schools to boost the exposure of school children to the arts;

THE inclusion of indigenous art in the school curriculum.

The group's proposed "Creative Australian" award would go to a creative individual in the arts, science or research field.

Most creative summit suggestions focused on encouraging greater recognition of the value of arts by government and in the corporate sector.

One recommendation was to increase corporate sponsorship of the arts.


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