Friday, March 28, 2008

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

A classic 60s slapstick-style comedy - but my blog is about Australia 2020.

You see I was vain enough to nominate for one of the committees, disappointed that I didn't receive a letter of invitation and then stunned when the final list was released today.

You see I nominated for what was announced on 3 February as "Economic infrastructure, the digital economy and the future of our cities". With the announcement of the steering committee on 26 February it was announced that Warwick Smith would chair the committee - on "Economic infrastructure, the digital economy and the future of our cities". And that was certainly the name of the committee in the on-line form I completed.

I was a bit concerned when the first twenty members were announced on 23 March, because none were listed for the committee on the digital economy, though at the bottom of the release it still said "Economic infrastructure, the digital economy and the future of our cities" was one of the ten critical areas for discussion at the summit.

But with the final release of the full 1000 participants today the first item "Future directions for the Australian economy – including education, skills, training, science and innovation as part of the nation’s productivity agenda" in all the earlier lists was morphed into two separate committees of 100 - one on the "Future directions for the Australian economy" and a separate one on "The Productivity Agenda (education, skills, training, science and innovation)". On the official lists Warwick Smith is now shown to be chairing this.

What we don't know is whether the original committee was dropped because of lack of interest from potential participants, or it was thought to be too diverse a group of topics (though I can easily link the three), or whether it was because the weight on nominations for the big headline "future directions of the economy" resulted in a need to find a way to accomodate them all.

But in the process the whole "critical area" has simply disappeared. So there is no explicit reference to economic infrastructure - it hasn't been added to one of the other economic lists. There is a whole committee to talk about the minority of Australians who don't live in cities - and no committee for those who do. And meanwhile - the digital economy doesn't exist - and it hasn't even been explicitly added to the 'productivity agenda".

I haven't had the time to go through the list in detail - but I do note the media coverage that James Packer has been added. That might be good because Packer and Lachlan Murdoch together perhaps equals one synapse. But heavens he's on the committee to talk about future directions for the Australian economy. We know his answer - gambling - or, as they call it down on the farm, "Prosperity through Probability" - a great slogan for the side of the barn.

To paraphrase the Bill Clinton 1992 election slogan "It's D-Economy, stupid." So much for Kevin Rudd "getting it" as his Minister for the Digital Economy keeps telling us.

(Note: It is also interesting to note how the order of the committees has changed - with health being top of the list now whereas the economy was originally. Was this designed to make it harder to note the change, or just playing to the warm inner glow of talking about health.)

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