PM Transcripts

Transcripts from the Prime Ministers of Australia

Transcript 15873

Australia 2020 - Setting our Nation's Sights for the Future, Address to the Sydney Institute Annual Dinner 2008, Grand Habour Ballroom, Star City, Sydney

Photo of Rudd, Kevin

Rudd, Kevin

Period of Service: 03/12/2007 to 24/06/2010

More information about Rudd, Kevin on The National Archive website.

Release Date: 16/04/2008

Release Type: Speech

Transcript ID: 15873

Thank you for the invitation to address the annual dinner of the Sydney Institute.

Since 1989, the Institute has been a platform for public policy debate on Australia's future.

The nation should always embrace such debate - with genuine intellectual passion and with genuine intellectual rigour.

Great challenges lie ahead of us.

Now more than ever, we need a real debate that transcends the old battlelines of the left and right of Australian politics.

The global context in which this debate now occurs has moved a long way over the last twenty years.

Market-based economic solutions have now been embraced across much of the current and former communist worlds.

At the same time, we have seen a parallel recognition in the capitalist west that Adam Smith's invisible hand does not represent the solution to every economic problem.

In recent times this has been demonstrated by the current debate on the proper regulation of global capital markets.

The real terrain for productive public policy debate resides in a clear recognition of:

* how markets should be regulated to ensure equitable competition;

* how to identify where markets fail; and

* what represents the proper scope for the provision of public goods such as education, health, a humane safety net and global environmental sustainability; and

* how we build the nation's competitive strengths in an increasingly competitive global economy.

Each of these invite a rich political and policy debate in itself.

These are the core debates at the progressive, reforming centre of contemporary Australian politics.

And these are very much the debates that the Government intends to advance.

The purpose of my remarks tonight is to provide a broad outline of the Government's vision for the nation's future; the start that we have made in advancing that vision; and the role we hope the upcoming national summit can play in taking that vision forward into the longer term future.

Values, Vision and a Strategy for the Nation's Future

The new Australian Government is committed to building a modern, competitive Australia capable of meeting the challenges of the 21st century - to secure the nation's future as well as a future for working families.

Our agenda for achieving this is shaped by the core values for which we stand.

Values of security.

Of liberty.

Of opportunity.

Of creativity.

Values also of equity.

Of family.

Of community.

Of solidarity.

Of sustainability.

And an underlying fundamental value of an irreducible human dignity.

These values very much shape the Government's vision for Australia's future.

We are committed to a secure Australia - strong at home and fully engaged abroad through what I have described elsewhere as a creative middle power diplomacy.

We are committed to building a robust economy - through a combination of responsible economic management and a program to enhance Australia's global economic competitiveness.

We are committed to opportunity for all Australians, not just for some - through a vision for Australia to develop the best educated, best trained, best skilled workforce in the world.

We are committed to a creative Australia where imagination and creativity drive our efforts in the arts, sciences and the development of a pervasive national culture of innovation and enterprise.

We are committed to the advancement of a fair go for all Australians through education, health and the rules that govern workplaces. We believe that as a Labor government it is our responsibility to challenge the limitations placed on people's potential (including the potential of indigenous Australians) by the circumstances they inherit.

We are committed to the protection of the family by advancing family friendly workplaces and better work-life balance.

We are committed to the concept of community - not as a collection of disconnected individuals but as a place where people are bound by common core values and a common sense of responsibility to one another.

We are committed to a principle of social solidarity that extends beyond private philanthropy to a public responsibility to protect the most vulnerable through a humane safety net for all Australians.

We are also committed to the greatest public good of our age - the protection of the global commons that is the planet itself - both for all who share the planet today and for those who come after us.

Finally we are committed to fundamental human dignity, through a judicial system that provides for the proper protection of the basic human rights of all.

Part of our vision is to give every opportunity to individuals to provide for their own future by rewarding hard work, enterprise and success.

While part of our vision also goes to a contrasting (but at the same time reinforcing) sense of social responsibility.

In fact our vision incorporates quite consciously a combination of private markets and public goods.

Or what I have already called tonight a new tradition of the reforming centre of Australian politics.

This is where I believe the modern Australia of the 21st century wants to go.

For many years it has been unfashionable to talk of a vision for the nation's future.

In fact, some have argued that framing such a vision is ideologically unsustainable because nations simply evolve as a consequence of the market forces that shape them.

I disagree because I believe a small country occupying a vast continent in a region as wildly disparate as our own has no option other than to plan for its future.

As it is written elsewhere, “without a vision, the people perish”.

I believe that as a nation we need to come together around clear, long-term goals for the Australia of 2020 and beyond.

These objectives should be ambitious.

Excessive caution and a fear of failure should not hold us back.

In fact it has been the absence of such agreed national goals over the last decade that has seen us waste the great dividend that has flowed to Australia through our record terms of trade.

How different it would be now, if we had invested the estimated $398 billion boost to the Budget bottom line in the decade from 2002, into funding a total education revolution?

But instead of investing in the future, against concrete, realisable goals, the revenue was consigned to consumption - both public and private.

Opportunities squandered. Rather than opportunities seized.

In the century ahead, it's not unreasonable for Australia to aspire to be the best place on earth to live, to gain an education, to work and to raise a family:

* a nation with first-rate business and employment opportunities, powered by the world's most educated, most skilled and best trained workforce in the world;

* a nation where we strive for the highest public health standards in the world;

* a nation where we care for the vulnerable and where we include the marginalised;

* a dynamic, vibrant culture incorporating the best of our many immigrant cultures within the best traditions of European civilisation that we have inherited - turbo-charged with the best understanding across the collective West of the languages and cultures of the high civilisations of Asia, and

* a nation with a liveable climate, a clean environment and extraordinary, well protected natural beauty.

We can also be a nation with a sense of wider purpose - not a nation turned in on itself and occupied only with its own future, but:

* a nation that is a great force for good in the world;

* a nation that contributes to peace and prosperity in our region and beyond;

* a nation whose belief in the ‘fair go' extends beyond the continental shelf;

* a multicultural, multilingual nation standing on the doorstep of the world's fastest growth region, and

* a nation that fully comprehends the meeting place between East and West as the Asia-Pacific century begins to unfold.

But the kind of nation we are in 2020 will be only what we plan for, and what we build together.

And that, in large part, is why in a few days' time we are convening the national 2020 Summit:

* to unleash the national imagination from beyond the ranks of politics and the public service, and

* to help fashion a national consensus around a common vision for the nation, with common goals to aim for within that vision.

We can either drift into the future or we can take hold of the future with our own hands - to shape the future, to seize the day.

Progress to date

We have been in office for a little over four months - and we've been making progress towards our vision for a modern Australia:

* Within minutes of taking office, the Government signed the instruments to the Kyoto Protocol and we are now active participants in the Bali Roadmap on climate change.

* On the first sitting day of our Parliament, I extended an apology to the stolen generations of Indigenous Australians, and we have begun a policy program of closing the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous life opportunities in Australia.

* The Government has also embraced a comprehensive productivity agenda based on a new program of microeconomic reform beginning with an education revolution and reform of the nation's infrastructure.

* The Government has commenced a new era in Commonwealth/State relations through the COAG reform process - to reform the Federation, to remove the regulatory burden on business, and to rebuild our nation's health system.

* The Government has concluded an historic agreement with the state and territory governments of Australia to establish a single national authority to manage Australia's major inland river system - the Murray-Darling - whose future is threatened by the impact of over use and climate change.

* The Government also has commissioned its first White Paper on homelessness and is looking at how to invest in compassionate, market-based solutions which deal with this important social policy challenge.

* Internationally the Government has been active in establishing the three pillars of our relationship with the world: a strong alliance with the US, engagement with the United Nations (including our candidacy for the UN Security Council after a 25 year absence) and a strong commitment to our own immediate region, including a determination to tackle under-development across the Pacific Island states through our new proposal for Pacific Partnerships for Development.

* And most recently, the Government has also advanced the cause of greater gender equality by appointing the first female Governor General in 107 years.

Through these actions we have made progress in our first four months.

It is a start.

But it is only a start.

And, as we move towards a bolder, more ambitious reform program for the future we are also conscious of the challenges we face in implementing that program - including the storm clouds that continue to gather across the global economy.

Global Economic Challenges

The global economic context has clearly become more complicated since we took office.

The global economic outlook has sharply deteriorated - with a double warning of lower growth and higher inflation.

Last week the International Monetary Fund estimated a 25 per cent probability of global growth slowing to three per cent or less in 2008-09, equivalent to a global recession.

The Fund has now lowered its global growth forecast to 3.7 per cent this year from a 4.1 per cent prediction in January.

It anticipates a “mild recession” in the U.S and slower growth in Europe and Japan.

It also noted that growth would slow in the emerging Asian economies from 7.4 per cent in 2007 to 6.2 per cent this year as a result of further global financial market turbulence and reduced demand for Asian exports.

Recent developments in financial markets also affect the financial security of Australia's working families, because of its impact on the real economy and the availability of credit for lending.

As financial markets become more global, so too must proper regulation, supervision and transparency become more global - but without crushing the capacity of markets themselves to respond flexibly to new opportunities in the future.

Recently, I have spoken at length about these challenges with policy leaders, financial decision makers and regulators in the US, UK, the wider EU and China - including the head of the IMF.

I emphasised Australia's willingness to contribute to what must be a global response by our respective national regulators to what is truly a global financial crisis.

The Reserve Bank of Australia is actively contributing to the work of the Financial Stability Forum.

We are also taking action at home. The Government's approach involves several elements including monitoring liquidity needs internationally and, through the RBA, participating where appropriate in coordinated central bank action.

We will continue to monitor the Australian financial system in light of the current turbulence to ensure that it remains efficient, flexible and competitive.

Beyond these immediate measures concerning financial market stability, it is now more critical than ever at a time of declining global economic confidence to bring the Doha Round of free trade discussions to a successful conclusion.

That is why the Government is redoubling its efforts in Geneva and why Doha was a prominent feature of my discussions in Washington, Brussels and London.

In summary, the global economic context in which the new Government is framing its long term reform strategy, as well as the upcoming budget, is the most challenging Australia has faced since the Asian financial crisis of 1997 and arguably since the global recession of the early 1990s.

The cornerstone of the Government's economic strategy therefore is responsible economic management, maintaining our anti-inflation strategy based on producing a significant budget surplus while at the same time advancing a comprehensive agenda of microeconomic reform aimed at boosting long term productivity growth.

Global conditions in 2020

Looking forward to the decade ahead, Australia must be mindful of both the immediate challenges to the global economy - as well as the unfolding mega-challenges that are radically transforming the world in which Australia must carve out its future.

We know that on current trends, the demography of our planet will change significantly over the next twelve years.

By 2020 the world's population will have grown by another billion to 7.6 billion people.

By 2020 a representative group of 100 global citizens would include:

* 56 Asians, including nineteen Chinese and seventeen Indians;

* 16 Africans;

* four from the United States;

* five Western Europeans, and

* not even one Australian.

In 2020 the world's five largest cities by population will be Seoul, São Paulo, Bombay, Jakarta, and Karachi - all cities in emerging economies.

We also know that, on current projections, the global balance of economic power will shift significantly over the next 12 years.

By 2020 the world economy is expected to be about 80 percent larger than it is today.

The average per capita income will be roughly 50 per cent higher.

By 2020 Asia will have grown to 43 per cent of world GDP and Asia's economy will be larger than the US and Europe combined.

Alongside the shift in economic power, there are likely to be parallel shifts in the global strategic balance of power.

China's defence spending is forecast to rise to $150 billion per year, according to the US National Intelligence Council - making it second only to the United States.

By 2020, the demands on the world's energy resources will have increased dramatically by nearly 50 per cent.

China alone will seek to increase its energy consumption by about 150 per cent by 2020 to maintain a steady rate of growth.

Even though the world's fossil fuel reserves are being depleted at a rapid rate, absent policy change, alternative energy will still account for only a small fraction of overall energy consumption in 2020.

As our use of fossil fuels increases, so will its observable effects on the natural environment that sustains us all.

Sea levels will rise, temperatures will increase and there will be more extreme weather events.

Climate change means variable water availability; more frequent droughts, floods and bushfires; altered distribution of pests and weeds and the move of tropical diseases into what are currently categorised as temperate zones.

Australia in 2020

Australia too will have changed significantly by 2020.

Our annual output, on current Treasury projections, will have risen by $400 billion to $1.4 trillion dollars.

GDP per capita will have risen by around $11,000 to over $60,000.

Australia's population in 2020 is expected to grow to over 25 million people, while the median age of our population will increase from 36 to 40 years.

Our population of Australians over 85 will have doubled from 300,000 now to 600,000 by 2020, with profound implications for national health care expenditures.

The number of households in Australia will grow by an additional 3 million in the next 15 years but the average size of those households will likely continue to decline. By 2020 the average Australian household will contain just 2.2 people.

If current trends continue, by 2020, diabetes will be the leading cause of disease for men and the second leading cause for women.

Dementia, anxiety and depression, will feature in the leading four health challenges for both men and women.

On a three decade projection, the fastest escalation in costs in health expenditure will be incurred by diabetes, at 400%, followed by neurological disorders, at 280%.

Those statistics give us just a snapshot of the challenges we confront in the years ahead.

2020 Summit

This gives some indication of the depth and breadth of the global and national challenges Australia faces in planning for the decade ahead.

In planning ahead for this decade, the most powerful force in our nation is not the Federal Government's capacity to make laws or implement programs from on high.

The Government cannot, on its own, legislate productivity, competitiveness, business innovation, or healthier lifestyles.

Our most powerful force is the ideas, talent and energy of the Australian people themselves.

Our greatest potential lies in forging a new partnership between communities, businesses, the various levels of government and other non-government organisations - to work together to tackle the big challenges that lie ahead.

If as a nation we are genuinely practical and empirical in our approach to finding new approaches to tackle old problems then we can move forward.

And many of these new discoveries will dissolve old debates between left and right based on outmoded versions of reality.

Witness for example the collapse of the age-old debate between welfare entitlement and individual responsibility - largely because community engagement has taught us that mutual responsibility is the best way forward both for the individual and for the public purse.

If we therefore genuinely engage society, and not merely the state - in other words, Australian people and not just Australian governments - then we will begin to also identify a new way of doing business for the nation.

The Australia 2020 Summit is an important part of this process - recognising that government does not have all the wisdom, and recognising that our political opponents also have a contribution to make . This is why we welcome contributions to the Summit from across the political spectrum.

This is why we have included distinguished Australians like former National Party leader Tim Fischer and former Liberal minister Warwick Smith as co-chairs of different streams in the Summit.

I also welcome the participation of the Leader of the Opposition.

The 2020 Summit is an opportunity for us all to rise above partisan politics, and we should create more such opportunities in national life.

The Summit will address the long term challenges confronting Australia's future across 10 critical areas:

* Future directions for the Australian economy - and how we build a competitive economy in a world being transformed by the rise of China and India.

* The productivity agenda - including education, skills, training, science and innovation.

* Population, sustainability, climate change and water.

* Future directions for rural industries and rural communities.

* A long-term national health strategy - including the challenges of preventative health, workforce planning and the ageing population.

* Strengthening communities, supporting families and social inclusion.

* Options for the future of Indigenous Australia.

* Towards a creative Australia: the future of the arts, film and design.

* The future of Australian governance: renewed democracy, a more open government (including the role of the media), the structure of the Federation and the rights and responsibilities of citizens.

* Australia's future security and prosperity in a rapidly changing region and world.

In the lead-up to this weekend we have already conducted Local 2020 Summits, School 2020 Summits, a national Youth 2020 Summit and one on Monday with the Jewish community given that next weekend coincides with the Passover.

The Local 2020 Summits have attracted thousands of attendees.

The School summits have been held in more than 500 schools.

Some students offered very practical ideas, like tackling the rural skill shortage with a ‘farm bonus' that would operate like the baby bonus, giving an incentive for students to return to their local communities after vocational training.

Some responses highlighted serious social problems. Many students have commented on their parents' long work hours, and some have sobering words:

“Give advice to parents - teach people how to be a mum and dad... We should help people so they don't have to work so much... Parents need to play with their kids more... Parents need to pay more attention to their children.... There is no time for kids, kids need more time.”

On a similar theme, a group of students mid-way through high school recommended some positive steps:

“Increase interaction between parents and children through working from home, reducing work hours, a ‘Take Your Children to Work Day' every so often. The employer could also give out promotions which will help to build up family activities, eg tickets to theme parks and sport games.”

A Victorian student linked modern work demands to future health problems:

“Exercise? No time in future because we work longer hours.”

Today's students love new technology, but many show a sophisticated understanding of how technology is contributing to social isolation - like the primary school student in Queensland who remarked:

“People won't have to leave their houses because everything will be able to be completed online and delivered to the door and this will be very sad.”

School teachers have done a particularly first rate job in getting their students to think about how we make Australia an even better place.

After the completion of these School Summits, last weekend Parliament House hosted a national Youth 2020 Summit.

One hundred young Australian leaders came together to put forward thoughtful and substantive proposals on matters including education, preventative health, mental health, climate change and Australia's place in the world.

The Youth Summit came up with ten key proposals and 30 additional ideas, and my Department is now reviewing them in more detail.

Participants in all these events would confirm that we have no predetermined agenda and no predetermined outcomes.

To help focus the discussions this weekend, I will be asking each of the working group co-chairs to nominate at least one ‘big idea' in their area for the future.

Second, I will also ask them to submit at least three concrete policy ideas, at least one of which must involve no cost or negligible costs.

And third, I will be asking them to identify at least three specific goals for which we should aim by 2020.

The Government will sift through the submissions and recommendations from the Summit and provide a response to its outcomes by the end of this year.

I will also be taking a proposal along to the Summit for discussion.

My proposal for Australia in the year 2020 is to create universal, high quality, affordable Parent and Child Centres for all 0-5 year old Australian children.

I believe such centres could offer real, practical assistance to working families under financial pressures struggling with the practical challenges of raising very young children.

These Parent and Child Centres will bring together maternal and child health, long day care and preschool into one stop shops for parents with young kids.

The goal of this ambitious proposal would be to offer all parents with 0-5 year olds access to a one stop early childhood centre that provides:

* maternal and child health services such as baby health checks, baby weighing, feeding advice and vaccinations;

* long day care including play-based activities for children whose parents are at work or studying;

* preschool and early learning including age-appropriate play-based learning provided by a four year qualified teacher; and

* playgroups and parental support and advice to ensure parents have a place to meet their peers and get access to advice while their children play.

This model would require partnerships between Federal State and local governments as well as existing private and community service providers.

The aim would be to provide most of these services at low cost to parents - however some services on offer (such as long day care services) would continue to be fee-based but with the cost still subsidised by the Government.

Access to these Parent and Child Centres would be universal, but not compulsory, and the quality of service provided would be underpinned by strengthened national quality standards.

Some or all of the services offered in these centres could be supplied by the private sector and would be subject to competition between providers, helping to drive quality up and prices down.

A single service centre model for all 0-5 year olds would offer great benefits to kids, great benefits to parents, and great benefits to the whole community.

It would improve the quality of health and education and care services for 0-5s, with:

* Better quality care that is underpinned by strengthened national quality standards;

* The introduction of more four year trained early childhood education professionals for all young children regardless of age; and

* Provision of education, health and other supports for children to make sure they are developing both physically and intellectually.

These Centres could improve the level of support for parents:

* Providing convenient health, education and care services for working parents;

* Providing age-appropriate services for parents with several kids under 5; and

* Providing opportunities for non-working parents to meet, to develop peer supports and to access advice while their children play.

These Centres could also improve outcomes for the whole community:

* Making better use of early childhood resources, reducing duplication, which means more money for frontline services;

* Freeing up capacity to strengthen national quality standards; and

* Providing additional support to disadvantaged families to improve the life chances of their children.

A little over a century ago, few would have dreamt that today we would have universal and affordable schooling for our children.

We have already set ourselves the goal of introducing universal preschool services for all four year olds by 2013.

We should aim to take the next step and create universal Parent and Child Centres for all children aged 0-5 by 2020.

Early childhood reform lies at the intersection of our aspirations for this nation:

* lifting long term productivity and participation through greater investment in education, particularly the early years;

* a commitment to reducing the cost of living pressures on working families; and

* a serious effort to reducing the opportunity gap that holds back children from disadvantaged families and communities across the nation.

This proposal builds on the extensive research which has already been done on the critical impact of a child's early nurturing, care and engagement with learning, on every aspect of their later life.

The proposal has been put forward to be debated on its merits.

And I look forward to the inputs of my fellow Summit participants on this and other proposals this coming weekend.


Twelve years from now, another group of Australians will gather to celebrate the Sydney Institute's 2020 Annual Dinner, marking what will be the Institute's 31st year.

Who knows what they will take as their subject - maybe the low carbon energy revolution in response to climate change; the rise and rise of India; new security challenges from a new generation of contagious diseases; new transformational technologies, or perhaps the new challenges of inter-faith dialogue among the 80 per cent of the world's population who are religious believers.

I hope they can look back on the Australia of twelve years ago and say, 2008 was something of a turning point.

A time when Australia saw its potential, recognised its strengths and seized the future.

A time when we took stock, looked beyond the trenches for a bit and imagined what we as a people might become.

A time when we said that we were done with short-term thinking and began substantial planning for the long term.

A time when we injected not just new ideas but also a new approach to policy making.

A time when we brought into the policy making process people whose skills and ideas had never been fully embraced before.

And I hope the results will be evident in the modern Australia of 2020.

A nation whose education revolution has transformed future opportunities for a rising generation of young Australians.

A nation with a key role in expanding global markets - perhaps clean energy technologies; the biosciences; agricultural innovation and across our service industries.

A nation that leads in its response to climate change.

A nation that has become a great force for good in its region and the world.

Transcript 15873