Quick note on the 2020 Summit

20 Apr

I think it is far too soon to judge the 2020 Summit just concluded in Canberra. Those of you still here in 2020 will be able to make the necessary judgments. I was, as I made clear, not in the camp of the cynics, however. I note that Jim Belshaw and Marcellous have both expressed views, both of them worth considering, though I really do find Marcellous too cynical on this one, though he does say he still has an open mind. It was interesting that at lunch (The Porter House) today Sirdan was very enthusiatic about it all; I don’t think anyone could accuse Sirdan of radicalism. (We also discussed Mugabeland, Sirdan’s birthplace, and expressed much satisfaction in the way this country of Australia, by contrast, handles political and social change.)

Now despite my reputation in some circles as a leftie, I have in fact considerable respect for Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the French Revolution, which I reread recently on my “Great Books” CD-ROM. Burke wrote in a context that seems very quaint now, yet his essential insights have been confirmed over and over, and he happens to have proved right in his expectations of where the French Revolution would go; he was writing during the Revolution’s first year, remember. He also draws attention to some vital matters of continuity that I do relate to.

Ten years ago I was a keen Republican (NOT in the US sense, never!) and voted accordingly in THAT referendum. Now I am less convinced that it matters as much as some think, one way or the other, but I am certain we will become a republic. The end of the reign of Elizabeth II, who really is very much respected, will focus the issue very sharply. I do hope that we remain very much a Westminster style polity, because it strikes me as the best system going, which is not to say it is perfect. (It would be nice if Mr Costa, our NSW Treasurer, among others in his government, had more respect for that system, indeed it would be nice if he was really a Labor politician wouldn’t it?)

I could say more, and probably will. But that will do for now. And Jim, I’m afraid one issue I have is that any change at all is going to cause divisions, except in the unlikely event of everyone agreeing with it and benefiting from it. I believe, hope, that the current Canberra government has better sales skills than Keating, or indeed Howard, had. That is about the best we can expect.

And I really do agree that our current Federal system is terminally ill, I’m afraid.

I also think Brendan Nelson would have been well advised — Sirdan and I agreed on this one — to say that he was “doing his best to make sure our ideas are heard” rather than saying the whole thing was a schemozzle. That would have sounded like leadership.

** Speaking of Jim, do read his excellent post on John Button’s Funeral, which he attended.

Read 2020 Summit Initial Report (PDF).

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Compare Andrew Bartlett’s initial response to the Summit. Thanks to Jim Belshaw for pointing it out, as I hadn’t seen it yet.

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3 responses to “Quick note on the 2020 Summit

  1. Jim Belshaw

    April 20, 2008 at 9:05 pm

    Good evening, Neil. Like you, I think that a republic is probably inevitable in the long term. But there is a large group of Australians who, like me, have strong ties to the current system. Further, the system works.

    As you note, all change creates divisions, as can the absence of change. To get change through you have to build coalitions. When a symbolic issue like the republic becomes central, both the focus and support required to get other change through diminishes.

  2. ninglun

    April 20, 2008 at 10:49 pm

    I have no great yearning for an elected presidency, I’m afraid.

    I noted your commendation of TB, by the way, but I really can’t stand the man. I find him a total smart-arse. Takes all tastes, of course, and many don’t share my revulsion…

  3. Jim Belshaw

    April 21, 2008 at 12:41 pm

    With TB, Neil, he sometimes makes me laugh. Otherwise its like water of a duck’s back.



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