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Lunch, dinner or summit?

By Don Allan - posted Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Apologies in advance if you intended inviting me to either a slap up lunch or dinner on April 19 or 20. Normally I’d be delighted to accept such an invitation but on this occasion, regretfully I’ll have to decline because I expect an invitation to attend the Prime Minister’s “Summit of the 1,000 experts”.

You might wonder why I expect an invitation to the summit? It would be presumptuous of me to say I expect to be invited because I’m one of the many people who think themselves “experts’ who seem to be hinting they should be invited: I am not. On the other hand, according to e-mails I receive about my scribblings in The Chronicle, Canberra’s biggest free community newspaper, even if not Australia’s greatest expert on being non expert, I am certainly in the top one hundred which makes it likely the PM will extend an invitation.

The fact that I live in Canberra also makes it likely I’ll be the only expert non expert to attend because those of my peers who live in Australia’s far flung corners, even if invited, probably couldn’t afford the trip.


To prepare for the summit and because I have no wish to let down Canberra’s image as the home of experts and great thinkers, I thought I had better lubricate what passes as my thinking machinery.

After a considerable dose of lubricating fluid had been consumed the thinking machinery clanked into life with the question: why is this summit necessary? Not being one of Australia’s brightest and best but speaking simply as an expert non-expert, I understood that Labor was elected last year because it had the ideas to secure Australia’s future while the Coalition had none.

I understood also, that among other things, Labor had been elected because the Coalition’s profligacy (apparently it wasn’t profligate according to a report mentioned during Kerry O’Brien’s interview of the PM in the 7.30 Report on Monday, February 4) had caused rises in interest rate that caused people to lose their homes and that to re-elect the Coalition would cause more of the same.

However, on hearing the word profligacy and with the help of further lubrication of the thinking machinery, I realised there had been profligacy, particularly during the election campaign when both Labor and the Coalition tossed promises and their own particular versions of the truth to the electorate with gay abandon.

The further lubrication also helped raise more questions. For example: could Labor tell me where the ideas on which it was elected had gone? I ask this question because there’s a feeling sneaking up on me that the change in Government is starting to seem like an exercise akin to shifting deckchairs on the Titanic.

A second question: aren’t the issues to be discussed at the “Summit of the thousand experts” - the economy, economic infrastructure, sustainability, rural industry, health, social inclusion, indigenous people and services, the arts, governance and national security - the same issues to which Labor, pre the election, said it had the answers?


And not that I’m cynical, but does holding the summit simply mean that pre the election Labor simply talked the talk and really didn’t have ideas but now in Government, and finding that voters expect it to keep its promises, called the summit in hope of finding some?

Promises aside, a third question: dare I ask also why education, manufacturing, housing affordability, homelessness, science, poverty, mental health and IT and other issues that will be long term in Australia, are not being discussed at the summit?

From what I can gather it is hoped the summit will produce radical ideas. Well, I’d like to be radical before the summit starts by suggesting that perhaps it’s time for Australia to have a Coalition Government comprising Labor, Liberal, National and the Greens, if the parties do not have the ideas necessary for Australia’s future progress. As I don’t expect my suggestion to find favour then perhaps it would be in Australia’s best interests to form a government from the 1,000 experts at the summit?

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First published in The Chronicle, Canberra, on February 12, 2008.

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About the Author

Don Allan, politically unaligned, is a teenager in the youth of old age but young in spirit and mind. A disabled age pensioner, he writes a weekly column for The Chronicle, a free community newspaper in Canberra. Don blogs at:

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