If you read the coverage of yesterday’s self-styled “National Reform Summit”, it appears the whole day was devoted to serious people expounding serious ideas about what changes need to be made to reform Australia, and why. Lots of solid ideas and prescriptions, most of them cogent or admirable, all in a spirit of collegiality and bipartisan good intent.

What you didn’t hear — and what guarantees this summit will not produce any meaningful results — was any serious or practical discussion about how to reform Australia. Not the ideas — the political and administrative execution.

If this were an entrepreneurial event, it would have spent at least half its time devoted to a concrete, specific, workable execution plan. Facilitated by implementation experts, not ideas experts. All the greatest ideas are worthless if they can’t be executed, and that is Australia’s logjam.

Everyone knows Australia has a future growth problem. Everyone knows we have dysfunctional government. Everyone knows there is no national strategy.

What’s missing isn’t policy ideas, it’s execution. What’s missing — and what yesterday’s “summit” failed to discuss, let alone address — is an intensely pragmatic step-by-step blueprint on how government delivers reform. A practical, political formula for change, not merely the reasons for change.

So, respectfully, here’s a suggestion to the summit organisers, The Australian and The Australian Financial Review: convene another full-day meeting later this year devoted only to implementation. Invite execution experts like Michael Kroger, Peter Shergold, Tim Gartrell, Gail Kelly, Mark Textor, Terry Moran, David Thodey, Mark Carnegie, Bruce Hawker, Lynton Crosby, Ken Henry, Lucy Turnbull, Geoff Walsh, Helen Silver — and don’t let them leave the room until they have formulated a practical implementation plan built around the political and institutional variables, realities and obstacles. (Private Media would be delighted to co-sponsor this National Implementation Summit, if a mongrel media upstart would help broaden the base).

Otherwise, it all ends in hot air. It ends like the story of modern Australia — lots of talk, rhetoric, goodwill, newspaper marketing hype and no practical outcomes.

Peter Fray

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