The 90 “future leaders”
(yes, yes, it sounds awfully pretentious) who met in the Yarra Valley
over the past four days at the Australian Future Directions Forum voted
to make “ending Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander disadvantage” the
top priority for Australia over the next 15 years.

Yes, that’s more important than economic development, security, climate change, health, education and everything else.

It’s
an absolutely amazing result if you consider that the PM was forum
patron, former NAB chairman Graeme Kraehe was chairman and the participants list was incredibly diverse, spanning from Crazy John Ihlan to the campaigns director for Greenpeace and an RAAF fighter pilot.

The
conference was primarily backed by NAB along with four other corporate
sponsors – Telstra, Australia Post, BHP Billiton and Qantas – who
together must have spent more than $500,000 putting it on. Given the
strong support for a carbon tax and commentary about bank and credit
regulation, this is the best example I’ve ever seen of corporate
sponsorship money coming with no strings attached.

And while the
majority did clearly skew to the left, the remarkable thing about the
decision to put Indigenous disadvantage front and centre is that the
argument on the floor was passionately carried by the most unlikely
trio of nominal right wingers, who can’t be named due to Chatham House
rules.

Check out the full outcomes statements.
There was plenty of good stuff but I particularly liked what the
education and environment teams did in throwing up sensible structural
and institutional suggestions, rather than the usual wish-list of
ideological dreams.

Amid a welter of recommendations, the four
that I directly got up in the governance and leadership group were a
Federal ICAC, quarterly disclosure of political donations and balance
sheets, more cash and less benefits for politicians and an NGO
Commission, similar to the New Zealand Charities Commission.
Unfortunately, I was narrowly rolled by the economics sub-committee on
an inheritance tax, but that’s life.

Peter Fray

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