Australia’s least cynical weekend?

Wasn’t it better during the Howard government, when we weren’t able to quantify how dim Australia’s best and brightest actually were? Or how few ideas they had?

Putting aside completely the merits of the individual proposals, some of the ‘new ideas’ that have been aired include: a republic, an aboriginal treaty, bill of rights, subsidies for energy saving devices, taxes on junk food, etc etc etc.

About the only idea in the list on the SMH website that does not appear every single day in the national media and on talk back radio is the idea that the tax code should be made even more progressive – when most media commentators criticise Australia’s tax system, their criticism isn’t that it is too flat.

When the ideas are not entirely banal they are entirely predictable. The cultural stream wants a national cultural policy, and a culture minister to manage it. Anybody who has ever been to one of the dozens of similar conferences that are held each year around the country will be familiar with the inevitable proposal to have a federal ‘minister for the future’ or something equally as daft.

And yet, the ideas aren’t the point – even the ones that haven’t been rehearsed over and over already in the public sphere.

2020 is a grand spectacle, an elaborate theatrical show complete with movie stars and comedians and passion and energy and geniuses and journalists, all of which is supposed to symbolise the federal government’s break with the dark Howard past. All levels of government and all sectors of the economy are present under the guiding hand of Canberra to work together for a progressive Australian future.

2020 is like a successful version of Brendan Nelson’s listening tour – a publicity stunt designed specifically to fill the Rudd government up with enough political capital to pursue a second and third term. After all, is it really too cynical to believe that this major government conference has a political agenda? (That is, apparently, too much for even the federal opposition to believe)

This weekend just goes to show how utterly credulous Australia’s public intellectuals actually are.

(I wrote about the summit when it was first announced: “Rudd summit puts con into consensus“. I think it holds up.)

Crossposted at

7 thoughts on “Australia’s least cynical weekend?

  1. Yes… I often hear people complain that “people are so cynical these days” – but a healthy cynicism is a good thing. I’m surprised to see the number of people who have fallen for this con – not just people I would normally deride as “lefties.”

    Clearly, people aren’t cynical enough… or perhaps they’re cynical about the wrong things (namely, the notion that individuals can’t be trusted to do the right thing, but if you centralise everything, it will make it all better)

    Most of the ideas are, predictably, about controlling people – getting them to make the “right” choices. Parliamentary quotas for indigenous; a “junk food” tax; ban smoking; subsidising the arts, and on it goes.

    I was initially surprised to read that they’d suggested tax reform, until I read further on the reforms they had in mind.

  2. Cynicism is a euphemism for realism. Seeing things the way they really are, instead of the way we’d like them to be.

    *Hans Selye

    He was a pioneer in endocrinology. Brilliant.


    Did anyone notice the way Rudd referred to Peter Garrett during his closing speech? I got the distinct impression there was some antagonism there. Anyone else sense that?

  3. Every single word that came out of the mouthy of these participants was about signing some toothless motherhood statement cooked by African tinpot dictators and Islamofascist nutters (tragically the same intellectual source of most the Aboriginal Industry hawkers) or the government handing over huge chunks of money to ghettoised “cultural identity” interests. I hate to sound like my grandfather but none of them seem even remotely concerned with “where’s the money coming from?”

  4. I agree the policies being trotted out in this exercise are both predictable and based on discredited assumptions. I similarly doubt any of them will be taken seriously – the Labor Party has been hearing them for a long time. The “public intellectuals”, left/progressives to a (wo)man, are merely excited because they have a new forum.

    Perhaps I am being a Pollyanna, but I don’t think that makes the exercise a complete sham. The process itself may have the positive effect of encouraging people to believe they could (if they wish) engage with the government. That’s important, whatever the size of the government.

    The smarties who blog hear already know they can make themselves heard at a political level. But I know many people who are quite disengaged from government and consider themselves utterly powerless.

    From the perspective of the LDP that is a problem. We need people to believe their opinion counts, and to be searching for a way to be heard. They won’t get a chance at the summit and in any case won’t have a high opinion of most of its participants. But the fact it occurred may make them recognise that it’s possible to be heard. Even if it only makes them think more carefully about how to vote, it won’t hurt.

    I suspect a cost-benefit assessment might show there are plenty of cheaper ways to achieve such an outcome, but I’ll leave that to the economists.

  5. Bolt has some good stuff to say about it. I like his conclusion:

    The summit was always likely to encourage people to think government was the answer – which is the reflex of the Left. And indeed, the vast majority of ideas assumed exactly that – that the answer was more government money, more laws, more quangos, more bureaucracies. Rudd, our Chief Bureaucrat, has triumphed.

    There’s also a thread going at Catallaxy

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