Australians discuss republic option

Climate change also high on agenda at ideas summit critics say is too broad.

    Critics called the summit a "very clever political manoeuvre" by Rudd [Reuters]

    Julie Bishop, the deputy opposition leader, told Australian television that her party would be closely watching to see if the summit yields anything practical or was just a showcase for Rudd's ego.

    Symbolic exercise

    Key recommendations

    Governance:

     

    Introduce Australian republic in a two-stage process; first ending ties with Britain while retaining the governor general for five years, then identifying a new model for the country

     

    Increase civic participation by automatic voter registration and community parliaments

     

    Environment:

     

    Make Australia world's leading green and sustainable economy by 2020

     

    Create carbon and water accounts so governments and businesses are more aware of their environmental impact

     

    Aborigines:

     

    Write treaty to outline status and rights of Aborigines and their relationship to federal government

     

    Close life expectancy gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians

     

    Run national public affairs campaign to combat racism and establish the cultural identity of indigenous people

     

    Encourage private investment and philanthropy in indigenous communities

    Janet Albrechtsen, an Australian newspaper columnist, told Al Jazeera that the summit was a symbolic exercise that did not tap adequately into the opinions of those living in Australia's suburbs.

    "This is a fantastic and very clever political manoeuvre to ingratiate yourself as a new prime minister with the intellectuals and the media establishment of the country," she said.

     

    Summit participants included Hollywood actors Cate Blanchett and Hugh Jackman, as well as scientists, artists, central bankers, industrialists and environmentalists.

     

    The suggestion for a republic drew most cheers during the summit, although Rudd has called it a second-tier priority for his government.

     

    A national referendum for Australia to become a republic in 1999 was rejected over disagreements on the style of presidency to employ.

     

    The idea dropped off the national agenda until Rudd, a republican, was elected as prime minister last November, replacing John Howard, a staunch monarchist.

    Opinion polls show most Australians respect Queen Elizabeth II but would prefer to have an Australian as head of state.

     

    'Carbon bank'

     

    Participants urging action on climate change proposed setting up a national "carbon bank" to monitor the nation's greenhouse gas emissions.

     

    Rudd praised the ideas but did not promise
    to implement them [Reuters]

    Delegates also tackled the problem of the country's decade-long drought, the worst in Australian history.

    The drought has cut production of many crops ranging from wheat to wine grapes, and is a major contributing factor in the growing problem of global food shortages.

    The lack of rain in Australia, the world's driest continent, has increased concerns that irrigation is permanently depleting major rivers.

    Some scientists argued that farmers should move from the south to the wetter, tropical north.
     
    Some of the other ideas proposed during the summit included providing incentives to attract workers to rural Australia, delivering fresh fruit to primary schools weekly and reinvigorating knowledge of Asia through student exchange programmes and promoting foreign language study.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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