AQ Volume 91, Issue 2 – Special Edition

2020 SPECIAL EDITION – AQ: Australian Quarterly 91.2

Three months ago, Australia (and our consciousness) was consumed in fire. Now as we enter April, over 20% of the world is in total lockdown – with Australia likely to follow. How quickly one crisis becomes another.

Yet even looking beyond fires and pandemics, the world is changing at an incredible pace, from technology through to social norms. But one thing remains largely static – the fundamental mechanisms of our democracy and government. In 120 years, the Australian Constitution has only changed eight times, and not at all in the last 40 years!

Yet the Constitution and the broader ecosystem of government now has to grapple with the complex and interdependent consequences of the internet, social media, globalisation, and unimaginably wealthy vested interests.

How do we future proof Australia for a future that we can only barely imagine?

For this 2020 Special Edition, AQ is extremely proud to have brought together some of Australia’s most active and respected thinkers, to provide four deep dive articles on the country’s future. Together, these sketch out an ambitious blueprint for ensuring Australia is a nation ready for its future, rather than chained to its past.

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Agenda 2030: Australia’s Disappearing Development Goals

In 2015, the world coalesced around 17 goals for a socially and ecologically equitable world – the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The SDGs rank as humanity’s most ambitious act ever; a necessarily complex and multi-faceted task. Yet many developed and developing nations around the world have internalised these goals and are marking their progress towards them. Yet Australia – both politically and socially – is largely silent on their importance. Why is Australia being left behind by the greatest social justice initiative our species has ever conceived?

Tim Costello AO 

Our Will, Our Way – Australia’s Future

Australia is one of the few countries to have voted itself into existence. We achieved Federation – one people, one destiny – because we were led by people who argued principles, who were consistent and coherent, who used evidence, logic, patience and commitment. This act of union stands in sharp contrast to the politics of division that we often see in our modern parliament. For Australia to prosper we need leadership of the calibre the federationists provided: courageous, articulate, persuasive, principles-based. What might a manifesto for the future look like?

Ian Chubb AC 

The Isolated Political Class

If you ever thought that politicians are out of touch, then you’re not alone. There is mounting evidence that Australia’s political class is increasingly isolated from the citizens it serves. Trust in the institutions of government is at record lows and faith in democracy is strained. There is general agreement between citizens and the political class, that change is needed – but what exactly are the fundamental differences between their views on our democracy, and the reforms that each group would like to see? Where should reform be easy, and where might the gaps between the governors and the governed be too wide to cross?

Mark Evans and Michelle Grattan AO

On Cobwebs and Fine Silk: Nationhood for the 21st Century

Only eight constitutional referendums have been successful in Australia’s history, and none since 1977. Yet Australia is almost irreconcilably different to the Australia of Federation. Parts of our founding document are now redundant, others are in desperate need of review, while some sections are at risk of causing constitutional crises. Partisan politics and an aversion to failure means that many issues will never be put to a referendum unless innovative and brave measures are taken. Our founding document needs help, and there is one thing that we can do…

Geoff Robin

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