THE global recession has taken its toll on Kevin Rudd's bold vision for the nation's future with the release yesterday of nine low-cost and modest ideas that will be formally adopted from last year's 2020 summit.
The Government also appears to be going lukewarm on a pre-election promise to hold a referendum on the introduction of four-year, fixed terms for the federal Parliament.
The idea was recommended at the summit but did not make the final cut. The report promised only to consider the recommendation as part of “ongoing reform to our constitution”.
The 2020 report was delayed for four months because of the economy. Its most expensive commitment is $50.7 million over four years to help fund the research and development of a bionic eye.
A dedicated children's TV channel, to be screened by ABC3, made the cut. It will cost $25 million to $30 million a year, with funding to be contained in next month's federal budget.
The commercial-free digital channel is scheduled to be on air by the end of this year.
Detail and cost was scant on most of the initiatives, including a “Deployable Civilian Capability”. This would involve a small army of civilian experts and specialists that could assist the armed forces with international disaster relief, stabilisation and post-conflict reconstruction.
Another approved initiative is “golden gurus”, in which skilled, mature-aged people would act as vocational and community mentors.
In his foreword to the report, Mr Rudd acknowledges that ambitions had to be scaled back in the aftermath of the summit.
“None of us who gathered at Parliament House for the summit could have foreseen the severity of the global economic downturn that was even then beginning to develop,” he said.
“As a result of the crisis … the world of today looks very different from that of April 2008.”
One of the strongest recommendations from the summit was that Australia become a republic. This was given short shrift.
“The Government is committed to ongoing reform of our constitution, where appropriate, and will draw on the input of the summit in thinking about future possible proposals for future change,” the report says.
The same answer was given to the recommendation for fixed four-year terms.
The Government did commit $15 million for the Prime Ministers' Australia-Asia Endeavour Awards, a series of scholarships to deepen cultural understanding between Australian and Asian students.
There will be a feasibility study into an Indigenous Cultural Education and Knowledge Centre – a program to connect business with schools – and a Vocational Education Broadband Network, a single network linking tertiary training centres.
The last idea is called “Skills For The Carbon Challenge”, which will help to train workers for sustainable industry in the future.
WHAT'S GOING AHEAD
* Civilian volunteers
* Indigenous knowledge centre
* Mentoring in the workplace
* $50 million for bionic eye
* Cultural scholarships
* ABC children's channel
* Business, school round table
* Promoting sustainability
* A post-secondary high speed broadband network