Australia 2020 Summit

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The Australia 2020 Summit was a convention, referred to in Australian media as a summit, which was held on 18-19 April 2008 in Canberra, Australia, aiming to "help shape a long-term strategy for the nation's future".[1] Announced by the new Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, the summit drew limited bipartisan support from Brendan Nelson and the opposition Coalition parties and ran as 10 working groups of 100 participants.[2] There were 1002 delegates[3] in attendance to discuss ten "critical areas". Ideas and proposals were invited from all members of the community and an official website was set up to accept submissions.

The 10 critical policy areas were:

  1. Productivity—including education, skills, training, science and innovation
  2. Economy—including infrastructure and the digital economy
  3. Sustainability and climate change
  4. Rural Australia—focusing on industries and communities
  5. Health and ageing
  6. Communities and families
  7. Indigenous Australia
  8. Creative Australia—the arts, film and design
  9. Australian governance, democracy and citizenship
  10. Security and prosperity—including foreign affairs and trade


The summit was initially criticized for the near-absence of women on the 11-member committee who would pick the 1,000 delegates—only actress Cate Blanchett had been named. The Government responded by saying six of the co-chairs would be female politicians.[4][5] By the time of the summit, there were three women on a 12-member committee.[6] Additionally, other commentators such as the Institute of Public Affairs, Australians for Constitutional Monarchy and Australian Monarchist League criticized what they saw as the unrepresentative nature of the delegates, which in their view biased the final report towards republicanism and ideas such as constitutional reform and a bill of rights.[7]

Some of the delegates themselves expressed criticism of how the summit was conducted. In particular, claims were made that the final paper, which purported to represent the resolutions of the sub-groups, did not reflect ideas that they had espoused or did include ideas which they had not discussed, possibly reflecting an agenda which had been determined before the summit.[8][9][10] Others were concerned that hard issues, such as terrorism in the group examining foreign affairs and security issues, were ignored.[11]

Journalist Nicholas Stuart was initially struck by the people who were not invited to Australia 2020, including two Australian National University professors Paul Dibb and Hugh White who had both advised Kim Beazley. Looking at the list of those invited, he found that "the holes kept expanding as I looked further and further, searching for the others who should have been there." He said "it began to appear as if one group of advisors ... under Howard had been replaced with another group of similarly hand-picked individuals," plus some media names.[12] There was no continuing secretariat for any follow-up action for the recommendations from the conference or the ten subgroups or forums.[13] Wayne Swan managed to get a review of the taxation system, to be prepared by the Treasury,[14] but in May 2010 when Rudd eventually released the report, he rejected 135 of the 138 recommendations .[15] Stuart wrote "The 2020 summit provided a paradigm for much of the activity in Rudd's term of office ... His rhetoric inspired and enthused voters. And yet ... and yet ... nothing happened."[16]


The summit was led by an 11-member steering committee, whose initial membership was announced on 26 February 2008. The committee played a key role in selecting the other participants, and each member led one of the working groups together with a government co-chair.[6] Since the initial announcement, Dr Kelvin Kong (Indigenous Australia) withdrew due to family health reasons, and Dr Jackie Huggins was appointed to replace him. On 14 April 2008, an additional co-chair, Dr Julianne Schultz, was announced for the Creative Australia stream.

There were two additional late participants who had been granted special entry as winners of competitions and their names did not show in the original lists of participants. They both attended the Productivity Stream Agenda. Their names were Susan Roberts, TAFE Head Teacher of Child & Family Services from Taree who had won a national competition by Channel Nine[17] and Ernie Peralta, a university lecturer whose "Golden Guru" concept of business mentoring was later adopted in Queensland.[18]

The members of the steering committee were as follows:[6]

Working group (stream) Committee member Government co-chair
Chair Professor Glyn Davis N/A
Productivity Warwick Smith Julia Gillard
Economy Dr David Morgan Wayne Swan
and Climate Change
Roger Beale Penny Wong
Rural Australia Tim Fischer Tony Burke
Health Professor Michael Good Nicola Roxon
Communities and Families Rev. Tim Costello Tanya Plibersek
Indigenous Australia Dr Jackie Huggins
(replaced Dr Kelvin Kong)
Jenny Macklin
Creative Australia Cate Blanchett and
Dr Julianne Schultz
Peter Garrett
Australian Governance John Hartigan Maxine McKew
Security and Prosperity Professor Michael Wesley Stephen Smith

Australia 2020 Summit Youth Delegates[edit]

Eleven young people were also selected by their peers at the 2020 Youth Summit, running from 11 to 13 April 2008, to represent Australian youth at the Australia 2020 Summit.[19]

Related events[edit]

Several events were held in the lead up to the Australia 2020 Summit:

  • 2020 Youth Summit: For 100 young people (15 to 24 years) from around Australia in Canberra, 12 and 13 April 2008.[19]
  • Canberra 2020 Summit: For Canberra residents, on the theme of innovation, in Canberra, 5 April 2008.[20]
  • Foundations of Open: Technology and Digital Knowledge: Australian National University, Canberra, 3 April 2008.[21]


  1. ^ "Australia 2020, about the summit". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Archived from the original on 14 February 2008. Retrieved 18 February 2008.
  2. ^ "2020 summit not just another talkfest". The Australian. New Limited. 4 February 2008. Archived from the original on 6 February 2008. Retrieved 18 February 2008.
  3. ^ "Rudd opens 2020 summit". SBS News. 19 April 2008. Archived from the original on 21 April 2008. Retrieved 12 May 2008. Mr Rudd says there were 1,002 delegates attending the summit.
  4. ^ "Gillard deflects 2020 summit panel criticism". ABC Online. 27 February 2008. Archived from the original on 2 May 2008. Retrieved 12 May 2008.
  5. ^ Maiden, Samantha (27 February 2008). "Rudd 'blokefest' attracts 3,000 hopefuls". The Australian.
  6. ^ a b c Australia 2020. "Steering Committee". Government of Australia. Archived from the original on 3 April 2008. Retrieved 13 May 2008.
  7. ^ "2020 a 'blatantly political exercise'". ABC (The World Today). 21 April 2008. Archived from the original on 23 April 2008. Retrieved 12 May 2008. For other comments on Roskam's view, see "2020 summit 'a PR stunt'". ABC Online. 21 April 2008. Archived from the original on 25 May 2008. Retrieved 12 May 2008.
  8. ^ Salusinszky, Imre (23 April 2008). "Bright ideas fade under controversy". The Australian. Archived from the original on 29 April 2008. Retrieved 12 May 2008.
  9. ^ Marr, David (21 April 2008). "Glimmers of hope survive in the mush". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 12 May 2008. Mush," declared Jack Waterford of The Canberra Times as he read their [the professional facilitators] attempt to boil down the first day's work of our "Open Government and the Media" substream – sorry about the language – of the Governance stream. He demanded to know: "What's happened to all our ideas?
  10. ^ Australian Associated Press (AAP) (21 April 2008). "Feisty debate at summit". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 12 May 2008. Dissention [sic] has emerged in the ranks at the 2020 summit with some delegates angry their ideas are falling on deaf ears, or not being heard at all.
  11. ^ Allard, Tom (21 April 2008). "Diverse input, but little output". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 12 May 2008.
  12. ^ Stuart 2010, p. 5.
  13. ^ Stuart 2010, p. 6.
  14. ^ Stuart 2010, p. 7.
  15. ^ Stuart 2010, p. 256.
  16. ^ Stuart 2010, p. 9.
  17. ^ "2020 Summit winner", Today, Nine Network, 17 April (2008)
  18. ^ "Ernie Peralta's golden gurus to share knowledge with young workers" by Emma Chalmers, The Daily Telegraph, 22 April 2009
  19. ^ a b 2020 Youth Summit
  20. ^ Canberra 2020 Summit
  21. ^ Foundations of Open: Technology and Digital Knowledge, Kate Lundy


External links[edit]