Friday, 18 April 2008

Rudd hoping for a dozen summit ideas

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says if 12 good ideas come out of this weekend's 2020 Summit it will be a weekend well spent.

Mr Rudd said his intention was to throw the doors of Parliament open to try and suck in ideas from the community that looked beyond the short term.

"If we get a dozen or so good ideas for the future out of this, it will be a weekend well spent," Mr Rudd said.

Mr Rudd said he would keep an open mind as to whether there would be similar summits held in the future.

"We'll see how this one goes, I think we should be open-minded about this. If it works well and produces good outcomes, then let's look at ways we can do this better in the future as well."

Mr Rudd says there was a "grave danger" of Parliament becoming a closed forum isolated from the community's ideas.

But he laughed when told of an idea by Victorian summit participant, barrister Julian Burnside, of making politicians legally accountable for telling the truth.

"I think all of us have got an obligation in public life to be upfront with people about what we can do and what we can't, and I take seriously the whole question of the commitments you make to the Australian people," Mr Rudd said.

"I think holding us legally accountable in courts, well that's kind of taking it to an interesting new level."

Mr Rudd said he had not decided yet whether to produce a communique from the summit.

"My commitment is that for these 10 national working groups which try and cover the big questions for Australia's future, that each of those will come forth with their major policy proposal," he said.

"Our undertaking as the government of the nation ... is by year's end to respond formally.

"What we can embrace, what we'll therefore proceed to implement and the reasons why and what we can't and the reasons why."

Nationals leader Warren Truss says rural Australians will be under-represented at this weekend's 2020 Summit because more than 10 per cent of the 1,000 delegates come from a single Sydney-based activist group.

The former regional services minister said the advocacy organisation GetUp! was to blame for the bush missing out on more spots at the summit table and labelled the group a Labor party front.

"If you have over 100 people there (at the summit) representing GetUp!, the ALP front lobby group, then there's going to be a lot of electorates that are going to miss out," Mr Truss said.

Federal Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson says he remains sceptical about the 2020 Summit, but he will be "all ears" at the event in Canberra this weekend.

"When you look at the number of people involved and the ideas they have, you're looking at about 39 seconds for the discussion of each proposal," Dr Nelson said.

"I think we need to be sceptical of what will come out of this summit.

"I will attend it with an open mind and certainly I will be all ears."

It was the final stop on a three-week listening tour which has seen him at community functions across Australia, including stops in major cities in each state.

Dr Nelson said issues affecting the hip pocket and the environment emerged during his talks with Australians.

"The things that Australians are concerned about is how can I feed my kids ... how can I get a roof over my head and keep it.

"It's about the cost of petrol, grocery shopping, trying to survive on a pension and living on a fixed income."

Dr Nelson also said Australians were concerned about water and the nation's water infrastructure, while farmers had concerns about climate change.

"It's extremely important that Australians have a government which is focused not only on the long-term future but focused on the real concerns of people day-to-day," he said.

Dr Nelson also outlined five key challenges in a speech given during the morning tea which he said needed a policy response from government.

He said Australians must act to ensure their children's prosperity. The second major challenge was the need for a review of the federation.

While calling for a measured response to climate change, Dr Nelson said Australians must "adjust to living on environmental interest instead of capital".

The final challenge was ensuring Australian society remained cohesive by tackling issues of alcohol and drug abuse, problem gambling, welfare reform and literacy.

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