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39 responses to “Guest post by Jeff Sparrow: The 2020 Summit anniversary”

  1. Razor

    Has had about the same impact as Sorry – SFA.

  2. Jacques Chester

    I’m going to shamelessly abuse this opportunity to plug my one and only foray into comic-strip hilarity.

  3. Nabakov

    “Has had about the same impact as Sorry”

    Let’s be not mean spirited here Razor. One was a magnificent symbolic event that cleared the air for the future, the other left us with our dick in in our hand saying “now what?”

    A meat tray for the right if not correct answer.

  4. Bingo Bango Boingo

    I refuse to believe that Jeff is genuinely surprised by the net result of this transparent and grotesque party political branding exercise. I would guess that less than 10% of participants themselves bought it. A lot of them are very smart people.


  5. Leon Bertrand

    This confirms, in case anyone didn’t know already, that Rudd’s Summit was primarily just a spinfest designed to appeal and flatter the left-wing intelligensia who think their ideas are more important than anyone else’s. Rudd essay in The Monthly can be seen in the same way.

    Interesting what the intelligensia’s silence after the passing of the deadline reveals about them. Obviously what mattered for them is that they were flattered and treated with a degree of specialness that they were not during the Howard years. This clearly overwhelmed their desire for results and outcomes.

    But this shouldn’t be too surprising – this is a group which favors the symbolic over real action time and time again. Consider their preference for ratification of Kyoto and participation in Earth Hour rather than cutting back their own emissions. Likewise their preference for tokenistic Indigenous policies revolving around land rights, apologies, and treaties, instead of policies which will actually contribute to the well being of Aboriginals.

    The Summit prtomised fresh thanking, but the most prominent ideas included a republic, a bill of rights and another ATSIC. Amusingly enough, most of the ideas have been given the consideration they deserve.

  6. Ken Lovell

    It’s amazing how the need to churn out thousands of words of ostensibly new ‘analysis’ and ‘insight’ every day causes so many intelligent people to write simplistic, substance-free rubbish. I guess if they chose instead to publish a properly-researched and argued piece once a month, nobody would read it cos it was, like, too long.

    “Back then, the left-liberal consensus was almost total.”

    I must be neither left nor liberal then; I poured scorn on the Summit from the beginning. In fact of course I was far from alone and the statement is almost totally wrong. There was plenty of scepticism on all sides of the ideological spectrum.

    Perhaps Jeff means ‘the ALP supporters’ consensus was almost total’. He would not be the first to mistake belief in certain principles for support for a political party. Indeed most of the MSM commentariat – in which Crikey is now firmly positioned – seems incapable of grasping the distinction. In lieu of analysis of issues, all we get is breathless daily commentary on the endless game of party politics.

  7. Rob @ Wonthaggi

    new dogs and old tricks – nothing new here

  8. Ken Lovell

    Sparrow’s piece illustrates the sad shortcomings of so much that passes for analysis. Everything must be exaggerated and mischaracterised in an effort to portray the topic du jour as Really Important. Thus things are ‘quite astonishing’; the Summit’s ideas have ‘come to nought’ even though the participants had ‘summit fever’; people who didn’t get an invitation ‘desperately’ looked for one; ‘every town’ and ‘every university’ was excited; it comprised a ‘galaxy of celebrities’ and on and on and on.

    Contemporary public affairs commentary: take one cup of hyperbole, plunder the thesaurus, add verbs, spice with heavy sarcasm, mix and serve as a serious analysis of something meaningless like ‘our political culture’.

  9. adrian

    Well said, Ken – what a pile of tosh.
    Maybe the writer is looking for a job with the ABC.

  10. Breathless

    Not the fillum, the reporters. Well said, Ken Lovell.

  11. Mark

    The Summit prtomised fresh thanking

    A thank you after a Sorry?

  12. Chav

    “Maybe the writer is looking for a job with the ABC.

    Or maybe comments at #9 is looking for a job with the ALP?

  13. Mark

    In fact of course I was far from alone and the statement is almost totally wrong. There was plenty of scepticism on all sides of the ideological spectrum.

    Well – I was very sceptical too, Ken. But I don’t know that skepticism found much of an outlet in public debate outside the blogosphere, and even within it, those of us who were Summit skeptics were being told how cynical we were in the face of an inspirational event blah blah.

    I’m not sure exactly what the objection to Jeff’s piece is. It is a fact that the deadline for responses to the summit proposals has long passed. It is a fact that this has rarely been pointed out – I mentioned it here in January, but there’s been silence ever since. It is a fact that the enthusiasts for the summit don’t appear to have publicly questioned the point of it all given that it’s obviously been buried.

  14. tssk

    Nabakov? A meat tray? Beware. You’ll face the PM’s wrath!

  15. Philip

    “It is a fact that the deadline for responses to the summit proposals has long passed.” sums the whole up beautifully. Smoke & mirrors and the copious amounts of smoke came from our dollars going up in flames. What a waste!

  16. Leon Bertrand

    “Smoke & mirrors and the copious amounts of smoke came from our dollars going up in flames. What a waste!”

    Kind of sums up the Rudd government’s approach to government generally up to now. Consider the following:

    Fuelwatch and Groverychoices – policies which overregulate the market and cannot acheieve the stated aim of reducing prices. Introduced because of the government’s need to be seen to be “doing something”.

    Stimulus package – Spending on handouts which are primarily saved, if not blown on alcohol, gambling, cigarettes and prostitution. Spending on pink batts to allegedly combat climate change. Spending on upgrades to school halls, assemblies and gymnasiums as part of an “education revolution”. Again due to the government’s desire to be seen to be “doing something” on the economy.

    IR laws – took a year to be finalised, not introduced to parliament until the government’s third year in office. But at least the delivery eventually occurred, unlike with Fuelwatch, Grocerychoices and the 2020 Summit.

    Indigenous policy – heaps of focus on apologies, treaties, another ATSIC etc, but not much focus on improving the intervention and actually help Aborigines in remote communities which have been affected by alchol, drugs, violence and abuse of children.

    I could go on and on, but its quite clear that this government is obsessed with gestures and spin rather than outcomes and substance.

  17. Adam Bandt

    Debates about hyperbole aside, isn’t there something in Jeff’s main point that a faux-intellectual event like the summit can gather such interest then fade away? This is certainly a different kind of governing than under Howard, and deserves attention as such, I think. It’s as if for Rudd the most important thing is to give the appearance of thinking about important things.

  18. Ambigulous

    tut-tut, tsssk!

    One would normally incur the wrath of the-only-human PM if one was serving a meal that had NOT been ordered, was just plain wrong, and – heh – when I order capsicum and organic sun-dried tomatoes I don’t expect a grilled tuna offcut with a hint of pork sausage, OK? Ya know what? I mean you young neo-liberal hosties smirking behind your copies of “IPA Review” may think it’s just fine and dandy to undermine the processes of governance by ill-considered prandials, but [why are you tugging at my sleeve, Special Advisor? No, I really am genuinely puzzled and sincerely discomfitted. But I’m just setting out the policy implications to this lass here….]

    Cabin attendant falls asleep on her feet, upset.

  19. moz

    The people I know who went were all genuinely excited about it. Recognition as one of the 1000 smartest Australians meant a lot. Not even the labour party hack seemed to expect anything to come of it that wasn’t already on the government agenda. It was more a matter of getting the participants to puke up a big wad of ideas that the advisors could pick through then feed selected tidbits to the media to justify whatever Kevin007 wanted to do.

  20. FDB

    Perhaps those who took it seriously and got all fired up at the time are too embarrassed to admit it’s all been packed in a tea chest and stashed away in that big warehouse from the end of Raiders, in the Maps to El Dorado aisle.

    And those who thought it a hot air fest from the get go have the humility to refrain from I-told-you-sos.

    Nah, that last bit doesn’t sound too likely does it?

  21. Razor

    Actually, on reflection I admit I was wrong. 2020 achieved SFA.

    Sorry achieved something. It has condemned abused and neglected aboriginal children to continue to be abused and neglected due to a focus by Child Protection authorities on culture rather than child protection. This is a shame for those children and Australia. I am truely sorry and ashamed.

  22. aidan

    Nabs said:

    “left us with our dick in in our hand … A meat tray …”

    Hmmmm ……

  23. Razor

    aidan – you think that the efforts of the Child Protection Agencies are succesful, then? In particulr for aboriginal children?

  24. THR

    It’s a myth that Aboriginals receive ‘special treatment’ under Australia’s child protection systems. The reality is that all children are basically neglected by their respective systems. In some instances, Aboriginals may even be slightly less neglected than others, as some initiatives/funds are given to Aboriginal communities, but not elsewhere.

  25. Razor

    THR – it is not a myth. Child Protection authorities go out of their way to keep aboriginal children with aboriginal families. I don’t have a problem trying to place kids with relatives, but when this policy works to prevent aboriginal children being placed in safer care than what an extended family/community is able to provide then that is a failure. The rate of placement for aboriginal children is significantly higher than for non-aboriginals. Your contention is not supported by the facts, unless the statistics are wildly wrong.

  26. THR

    The stats support my side of the argument, Razor.

    Child Protection authorities go out of their way to keep aboriginal children with aboriginal families.

    All kids are meant to be placed with relatives in the first instance, irrespective of ethnicity. For Aboriginal kids, there is an added requirement that if suitable relatives can’t be found, Aboriginal caregivers are the next best option. Failing this, Aboriginal kids go back into the mainstream system just like every other kid. In reality, these clauses are often not followed, and they only exist so that Governments can remove Aboriginal kids at whim, without ever troubling their conscience.

    If the rate of removal is higher for Aboriginal children, doesn’t this tell you that Aboriginal abuse issues are being responded to? Or are you suggesting that there is a policy of ignoring Aboriginal abuse, initiated by the bleeding heart left, and practiced for vague reasons of ‘culture’?

  27. Jack Strocchi

    Jeff Sparrow says:

    the most popular topic last April was the republic. Heard much about that lately?

    Wrong. The key topic for 2020 summit was climate change. The Republic was only “the most popular” because the committee was stacked with hard-core Republicans. A total farce of a “debate”. They got what they deserved = 0.

    Jeff Sparrow says:

    It often seems like the left-liberal intelligentsia (the people at whom 2020 was pitched) have only two speeds: graze and stampede. Last year, everyone enthused about the summit; this year, no-one — other than Peter Costello — bothers about the government’s response.

    Now he tells us.

    In the immediate aftermath (04MAY08) of the 2020 summit I correctly predicted that the whole exercise was a gigantic PR stunt to co-opt the Left-liberal cultural classes:

    I see that the Left-liberal commentariat, in the wake of the 2020 summit, is now pretty much co-opted into the federal ALP’s political apparatus, going by the series of love letters to Rudd published that are flying back and forth accross the aether. He listens to you and, hey presto, you are eating out of his hands.

    Pretty cheap date.

    And, adding a free bonus prediction for the first umpteen hits, I correctly predicted that Rudd would sell out the co-opted Left-liberal cultural classes when it came to carbon mitigation:

    Rudd…will do nothing about King Coal.

    Its nice that Mr Sparrow has now finally decided to make a retropsective analysis of Rudd’s political triangulation. But wouldnt it be more useful if he had done this one year ago?

    That is what I did.

    Bang, Bang, right on target.

    I really dont want to sound like I’m beating my own drum here. Merely drawing attention to the argument as part of a disinterested quest for truth.

    [muffled snort of derision]

  28. Jack Strocchi

    # 3 Nabakov Apr 3rd, 2009 at 12:28 am

    Let’s be not mean spirited here Razor. One was a magnificent symbolic event that cleared the air for the future,

    Lets be realistic here. That is, after all, the first duty of “social analysts” who want to predict, rather than just pontificate, reality.

    Sorry Day was a nice gesture. Although its symbolic value was diminished by the fact that the Commonwealth is now doing almost (but not quite) exactly the same thing that the Protector of Aboriginals did almost a century ago. Namely compulsorily take away neglected or at-risk half-caste children. The AUstralian reports:

    WELFARE workers in NSW are removing Aboriginal children from their homes in numbers far greater than during the Stolen Generations, and the recruitment of Aboriginal staff has done nothing to stem the tide.

    On the eve of the release of another report on the crisis in child welfare, The Australian can reveal that a staggering 4000 Aboriginal children are now in state care in NSW.

    This compares with about 1000 Aboriginal children in foster homes, institutions and missions in 1969.

    But the politics of the fuzzy warm inner glow wont prevent one child from being raped, or get one person proper medical attention or get a lost generation back into the work force. To do practical reconciliation you need to apply the coercive authority of the state to dysfunctional communities.

    In short, you need an Intervention.

    And its working alright. The progress reports on reduced incidence of child STDs, reduced truancy and income-managed diets are very encouraging.

    STRICT restrictions on welfare payments in Aboriginal communities have led to a dramatic rise in the consumption of fresh food, a development that has intensified Labor support for a key aspect of the Northern Territory indigenous intervention.

    Friends up North assure me that it has plenty of grass roots support amongst Aboriginal mothers. Of course they have to be discreet about this.

    But Left-liberals arent really all that interested in anthropological reality or the ball-busting business of practical policy. They are much more concerned with posing in the moral vanity mirror and cursing John Howard for all he is worth.

    So now they can reflect on the lousy wages of their sin.

  29. Geoff Honnor

    I think I noted at the time that it was kind of like the gala launch of the new government. The great and good (validated by much-coveted invitation) gathering in Canberra (paying their own way!) as harbingers of the Rudd Spring.

    JFK once famously observed that a cultural evening (headlined by Pablo Casals) early in his presidency represented the “greatest assemblage of talent and intellect seen in the White House since the last time Thomas Jefferson dined alone.” It’s become emblematic of his presidency – “the best and the brightest.”

    And the PM appreciates alliteration.

  30. Graeme

    A colleague of mine attended optimistically, though realistic (young and female, she knew she ticked two boxes). She returned yawning, reporting that as a convention, it had been a shambles.

    But ‘undemocratic’? More representative than party hacks, or bureaucrats or lobbyists.

    And sideshow it may have been, we need more not less deliberative democracy: it just needs to be on manageable topics.

    Rudd’s disappointment is to have so far failed to be the radical liberal or open minded technocrat he could be. I can’t think of a novel idea to yet emerge from the policy wonks.

  31. A Passing Wag

    One is reminded of the old punk rock joke: “If you were *really* hard-core, you would have thrown a *full* bottle.”

    So Rudd remains silent (or maybe just tentative) about the Summit and its recommendations. So what? The Summit still existed nevertheless, and the participants exchanged ideas and presumably contacts too, and nobody’s memory was erased.

    If the summiteers were *really* democratic they wouldn’t stand around waiting on Rudd’s approbation, they’d be busy discoursing with the greater public about what went on, setting priorities through public discussion, and trying to build a new democratic consensus around the most valuable ideas. That would help change the terms of future debate, thus changing the priorities of policy-making and elections, etc. etc.

    Oh. But that would take *work*, wouldn’t it. Not as much fun as wearing a spiffy “I’m one of the Special Ones!” badge on a lanyard, and hanging with the cool kids. Ah well. Better to call the whole thing a loss and get back to the real business at hand.

  32. Paul Burns

    Maybe the summiteers are shocked into silence by the spectacle of a Labor Prime Minister abusing a worker so cruelly that she burst inter tears?

  33. Patricia WA

    Lacking the cynicism of many commentators here I thought the 2020 summit was quite a marker of change in public debate after the previous decade. What a bunch of nit pickers you are! Is it really surprising its significance has been dimmed somehwhat by the world events of the past year?

    Talking of which I came to LP looking for commentary on the GFC and the outcome of the G20 summit. Today’s news seems to have passed everyone by, except Ambigulous, of course, who realises the world shattering significance of Rudd’s temper tantrum over his delayed dinner!

    This is as bad as the ABC World Today where a headline story was about the tearful hostie and where the only official Opposition commentary after the G20 Summit came from Tony Abbot talking about the PM’s bullying and wicked character revealed by this dreadful social crime. (So this is why Therese Rein looks so down trodden!)

    And now here are LP bloggers rubbishing a young left government’s efforts to renew national debate and throw up some big ideas. Is this really intelligent centre left commentary on national politics?

  34. Joe

    The intelligencia have realised like Rudd, that they realy were off with the fairies at the summit and they don’t want to be reminded how rediculous most of their sumit ideas realy were. Its like your first teenage relationship where you do some silly fawning things, like writing poetry. The summit was s symbol of how blindly the inteligencia fell in love with Rudd’s spin, and I don’t think they want to be reminded how in Love they were with this now toxic bore who makes his staff cry. They are now suffering the hangover from the night before.

    (Most of the ideas just involved spending huge amounts of gov cash on things like the arts and othre inteligencia industries, and since Rudd has splashed our cash for chinese lcd tvs for all there isn’t the money to waste on such nonscense any more – imagine if Howard had had a sumit and the recomendation was for spending on constitutional monarchists – it was that rediculous…)

  35. Ken Lovell

    ‘I’m not sure exactly what the objection to Jeff’s piece is.’

    I was grumpy at the style Mark, not the substance. The implicit condescension (‘all you left-liberal luvvies with your summit fever are so silly’), the hyperbole, and of course the obligatory link to iconic figure Peter Costello. It’s typical of so much writing in both the MSM and the blogosphere, intended to provoke partisan conflict rather than reflection. One reason I still find LP so rewarding a site is that bloggers usually eschew this kind of writing.

  36. Grumpy pedant

    I’d be hapy if they had a plan to teech some ppl to spel.

  37. Bingo Bango Boingo

    Grumpy pedant, I suspect it is satire. Use of the word ‘fawning’ would be the giveaway here.


  38. Jack Strocchi

    # 19 moz Apr 3rd, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    The people I know who went were all genuinely excited about it. Recognition as one of the 1000 smartest Australians meant a lot.

    Thats a bit of a giveaway.

    There are two Left-liberal status-anxiety hot buttons.

    The first is constant fretting about their IQ relative to peers. Crucial when it comes to getting a place in coveted tertiary institution.

    The second is whether their intellectual prowess is recognised by the general society. Crucial when it comes to getting a job in a coveted bureaucratic institution.

    Rudd’s 2020 conference managed to press both hot buttons at the same time, by conjoining the Top Dogs intellectual facility with institutional utility.

    I give him points his Machiavellian psycho-social skills.

    FWIW the one thing I got one thing out of observing the conference was the solitary reference to the forlorn figure of Lindsay Fox trying to flog his pet theory:

    Lindsay Fox, the transport magnate, had quite a lonely time of it. He was the only person with “intermodal transport” written on his bit of paper, and interest seemed pretty thin.

    As they say in the Army, intellectuals talk strategy, field officers talk tactics but generals talk logistics.

  39. terangeree

    At the risk of taking things onto an irrelevant tangent: with regard to the tearful flight attendant — one could understand it becoming public news if it were a commercial (chartered) airliner from Port Moresby, but the aircraft in question was a RAAF aeroplane.

    From what I recall of my glancing encounter with military service, it’s a career where one gets used to being yelled at by those with one more stripe than you on their sleeve — or a coat-or-arms — or even shoulders decorated by pips, crowns and/or crossed swords. Being yelled at by a politician should really rate as minor in the scheme of things for a VIP squadron flight attendant.

    So the question in my mind is who was it in Defence that leaked the news about the stratospherically-cranky PM, and why did they do it?