Kevin Rudd announces another talkfest.

Looks as if the Prime Minster of Australia, Kevin Rudd, is keen on talking things through. His latest idea is to invite 1000 volunteers to discuss issues on ten different topics about Australia’s problems. When is a talkfest not a talkfest? When it’s a summit!

“The summit will bring together some of the best and brightest brains from across the country to tackle the long-term challenges confronting Australia’s future,” Mr Rudd said.

Normally I would applaud the fact that Rudd wants to listen to the views of the Australian public. But since he came to power our prime minister has been on a rather long listen and learn carnival. And when initiatives are delayed because first there has to be an inquiry I become suspicious that perhaps Rudd is treading water a bit too long.

Mr Rudd is careful to point out that the conference of 1000 volunteers will not be a talkfest.

“This is not a talkfest for the sake of a talkfest,” Mr Rudd said in the report from AAP.

So if it’s not that, then what in the world will it be? How can 1000 people have their ideas heard in one long weekend? There couldn’t be much time for discussion, even if the 1000 volunteers will be divided into ten groups of 100. Can you imagine 100 people all trying to give their views and then all getting together for one huge pow wow? Will they be experts in any field?

A further problem is that these best and brightest will have to pay their own way to Canberra and I’m not quite sure how that will work. Or does he mean the best and richest? Why should delegates who are chosen by the government have to pay their own way?

I suspect that Rudd has a tendency to have inquiries and discussions as a means of putting off doing anything. For example, why would there be an inquiry into petrol pricing when everybody knows that petrol companies are charging whatever they like because they can? Looks like a delaying tactic to me.

We are also having an inquiry into supermarket prices. This is another inquiry whose result is known. Prices are high!!! Knowing why prices are high will not make the consumer any happier. What we want to see is a lowering of prices and an nquiry Rudd-style is not even promising to do that.

Quite frankly I don’t care why prices of petrol and food are high. I want them to be lower. That is all that interests me. If the government can achieve that then it will be called successful. If it can’t then no amount of inquiries and brainfests and talkfests will cheer me up.

It’s time that Rudd took some action. Talking is not action. It’s just a lot of hot air. There have been endless conferences about aborigines molesting their own children. There’s another one going on about the homeless. These inquiries cost time and money and end up in some dusty archive.

Rudd’s few months in government have reminded me of the late Peter Cook’s movie called “The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer” (1970). This is a brilliant satire on democracy carried to extreme. In it a slick politician, Cook himself, climbs to the top by promising the people of England more say in the running of the government. He involves them so much without actually doing anything that they are inundated daily with discussion papers and referenda. Nothing is done without the ordinary man in the street being consulted. Sounds good? Well, after a while the people become fed up with being consulted every minute and demand that the elected government do the governing. Perhaps Rudd has seen this film and has decided he is going to annoy us with this barrage of inquiries until we lose interest in what he is doing or not doing.

As the AAP article reports:

He (Rudd) said the ideas created at the summit would not immediately become government policy and he also promised that already announced Labor policy was sacrosanct.

“Our policy direction is clear cut.”

“What we want is for this gathering of the nation’s brightest and best to put forward options for the nation’s future (and) to produce summary documents which we will then consider in the second half of the year.” Mr Rudd said. “We will then provide a considered response to those options papers by the year’s end.

“Those that we accept will form part of the Government’s long-term planning for 2009 and beyond and those that we reject, we will make plain our reasons why that’s occurred as well.”

The date for the talkfest that is not a talkfest is the end of April. Methinks the First of April would be a more appropriate date.


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