The 2020 summit kept me too busy to blog. Looking back on the weekend I have a range of impressions.
* Rudd’s opening speech was inspiring, one of the best I’ve heard from him. The same was true of the opening ceremony as a whole.
* As numerous speakers said, the sense of new possibilities and a new openness to ideas has been one of the striking outcomes of the change of government, to an extent that has certainly surprised me.
* In many areas, including the water and climate change sessions, the real message was not so much the need for new ideas (though there were some good ones) but the need to act much more urgently on what we already know
* From the government’s point of view, the Summit had a couple of effects. One was to shake up the policy agenda, giving Rudd the chance to pick up a lot of ideas that are broadly consistent with Labor’s policy platform but got crowded out of discussion in the course of me-too election campaigning. The other is to raise expectations that the government will actually achieve things in areas like climate change and indigenous policy, rather than putting a better spin on marginal changes to the policies inherited from Howard.
* It was already obvious that, with Howard gone, and Labor in office, the Republic issue would return to the agenda. It’s something we have to come to anyway, and is just awaiting the right mood of national optimism. To sustain what is bound to be a fairly lengthy debate, we need more than the natural optimism of an electoral honeymoon. For that reason, I hope, and expect, that concrete moves towards a Republic will be deferred for a while, until the government has some concrete achievements to celebrate.