The excitement is mounting for the Government’s 2020 summit. In a sort of ceremony akin to Academy Award nominations, the Prime Minister has unveiled a “steering committee” composed of luminaries who will lead discussion at April’s talkfest.

And as if to make up for missing out not once but twice last night, Cate Blanchett heads the list. Blanchett, who seems to have supplanted Judy Davis and Our Nic as Australia’s go-to luvvie, will lead the “Towards a creative Australia” group. This section of the agenda intriguingly includes “Future directions for the ABC, SBS, Australia Television and Radio Australia”, about which the Prime Minister is known to have strong views.

The rest of the steering committee is a mixed bag. Warwick Smith (whom in retrospect everyone wishes had taken to gig as ACMA Chairman) should know plenty about infrastructure and, crucially, how to get the private sector to fund it, albeit at usurious rates of return; David Morgan, Roger Beale and Michael Wesley all have considerable experience, respectively, in economic, environmental and security matters.

But Tim “bucketloads of extinguishment” Fischer is a poor choice for matters RARA. If Rudd insisted on having a Nat for regional issues, he should have asked John Anderson, who at least has a functioning brain and tried to find regional development solutions outside the pork-barrel when Minister. And Tim Costello is a predictable choice for communities and social inclusion who will bring nothing new to the debate, which perhaps was the idea. Young surgeon Dr Kelvin Kong has a strong record in indigenous health but you wonder if Rudd was more interested in someone untainted by indigenous politics than getting someone with a real capacity to spark ideas in what is morally the most significant summit agenda item.

As for the nomination of News Ltd’s John Hartigan for the “governance” agenda, well, that presumably Rudd’s unsubtle idea of irony.

All of these august individuals will help pick the lucky 1,000 (count ‘em) summit participants. The possibility of being personally selected by Cate should see the summit website flooded with nominations from fans of the luminous queen of stage and screen.

There’s only one slight drawback, although admittedly it is one that is hard to avoid. The appointment of sector experts in each area to select participants and lead debate might embed the same old same old in the summit outcomes. Groupthink can be terribly difficult to avoid when you’ve been in the same area for decades. Perhaps putting the Chief Executive of News Ltd in charge of governance isn’t such a bad idea. He’s likely to bring a fairly novel perspective to the issue.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey