10 big ideas for Australia

A little while ago two neighbours sent me a short booklet on 10 big issues facing Australia in the future.

The booklet was edited by Michelle Grattan, published by The Conversation, and included contributions from various Australian academics and commentators.

Introducing the contributions Michelle Grattan said: “Never have we heard so much from our politicians and other political players. The professionalisation of politics with its armies of advisers and spinners and the 24 hour medias cycle combine to give us more political noise than ever before.

“Many of the politicians in their endless appearances are parroting the talking points; on the issues of the day – all they need for these performances is an adequate memory…Much of the journalism is similarly hasty and thus superficial.”

“But an optimist would hold that, given the opportunity, the community would eventually favour and reward those who are willing to take up and run with big ideas that can translate into transformational policies.”

This introduction is followed by 10 chapters covering barriers to reform and growth and how they can be tackled; culture wars; education policy, the health burden of an ageing and obese population; climate change; the state of democracy; foreign policy and aid cuts; urban growth, population, immigration and infrastructure; equality; and, the future of Federation.

On reform and growth the booklet discusses a new federal bargain covering the sharing of income tax and GST equally; fixing state land taxes and payroll tax; fixing income tax and looking at transfers for workers and families; taxing savings and retirement incomes more fairly; fixing the GST and company tax; and establishing a shared stake in fairer and more efficient taxes.

It also recommends we embrace our future as an innovation nation; reward industry leaders over rent-seekers; and. get more consistency and scale in industry assistance programs.

Looking at social media and political debate it emphasises going beyond socially divisive policies, ending the culture wars and ending the mobilising of prejudice.

It recognises that Australia is falling behind in maths, science and reading literacy and the need to target low socio-economic groups to add to their basic skills. The whole concept of the purpose of tertiary and higher education, of training and or skills needs to be reconceptualised and funding mechanisms need to recognise new realities.

We are getting fat, old and slack with a huge obesity problem. We are living longer but getting sicker and need to work at keeping people out of hospital and ending fragmentation in our health system.

The booklet advocates a six point plan for climate policy involving: an end to wedge politics, a climate target with teeth; ending the carbon price phobia; adopting a federal approach to cutting emissions, uniting climate and energy policies and emphasising the positives about effective climate action; and retiring the idea that Australia ‘depends’ on digging up coal and other resources.

In foreign policy we need to reverse our aid cuts which have foreign policy consequences – as with the Pacific and the Solomons; we also need to boost defences but pick our fights carefully rather than blindly following the US. A special section on foreign policy addresses Russian intentions and the threats to Eastern Europe and Ukraine.

In terms of population, immigration and infrastructure we need new models of urban growth and governance and to no longer delude ourselves by belief in unique Australian liveability despite the significant urban problems which cists.

On immigration we need to guard against racism, suspicion and division.

Welfare reform needs to be about improving well-being not punishing the poor.

We need to work systematically to close the gap between our Indigenous population and other Australians and end the search for top down solutions instead embracing and giving agency to Indigenous Australians.

Finally, we need to think creatively about our Federal system and how it can be improved to make it work more effectively and more seamlessly.

As the booklet blurb says: “In the constant noise and outrage of the 24 hour news cycle it feels as though less and less time is given to serious policy debate. What are the big issues facing Australia? What kind of bold, innovative ideas should we be wrestling with to meet the challenges facing us now and into the future?

Are you seeing these 10 big issues being pursued in the current election campaign? No?

…but would you be surprised by the fact that this booklet dates from just before the 2016 election?

Six years later are any of today’s politicians promising to tackle them?

…and if not now how much longer do we need to wait? Indeed, will The Conversation be producing a similar booklet come 2025?

Sad, tragic, farcical, criminal – make your own choice.