The Trouble With Thinking Big


I’m 24. The recent change in Federal government is the only one that my friends and I have any substantial memory of. When our Prime Minister committed Australia to the Kyoto Protocol, when he apologised to the stolen generation, he gave us a new vision of government: optimistic, ambitious and overreaching. Slowly my faith in the national political system is being restored.

The Australia 2020 Summit over the weekend was a continuation of that renewal. For all the problems with the Summit – issues around the diversity of delegates, and an agenda that left little time for substantive deliberation – it has meant that we’ve become, if for only a little while, a people and a nation of ideas.

The Summit’s tagline is "Thinking Big". This is surprisingly difficult. In our small groups across the weekend, it was clear that it was for most of us an unfamiliar exercise. We had never before been given the opportunity to look at it all, to have everything on the table, to be given the chance to reconstruct the nation from top to bottom. It was a difficult exercise, and to be honest, I’m not sure if we lived up to its promise. But that’s the point, I think – today we’ve been challenged to re-imagine the future and to dream of possibilities, so that tomorrow we may be better at it.

The Summit was, undoubtedly, a talkfest. But we shouldn’t underestimate the power of words. After all, ideas have to be articulated before they can be translated into action. And when you look at what the Summit discussed – strategies to ensure that no Australian will live in poverty, to close the Indigenous health and literacy gap, to guarantee clean air and clean water for our children; good schools and universities and quality healthcare – these are issues that have an intimate relevance to Australians. Together, we’ve started mapping out a blueprint to galvanise the attention and energy of the nation to solving our most pressing, basic problems.

I think we should look at the Summit as the beginning of the discussion. I hope that, after the Government responds to our recommendations, the imagining will continue. And in time, perhaps we’ll be able to wipe away the cynicism in our politics, and truly live up to the opportunity to think big.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.