Thursday, April 23, 2009

2020 Vision

With all of the gloom doom and disaster taking place at the moment, such as the impact of the Great Recession, the growing realization that the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme will fail to achieve anything much aside from making certain bankers and lawyers richer, and of course the sudden onslaught of desperados in leaky boats fleeing the very regimes and organizations that we denounce as evil, it’s easy to forget that not so long ago Australia was enjoying a euphoric burst of optimism.

The Rudd Government was elected at a time when few suspected that the long years of prosperity were about to reach an abrupt halt, and most were celebrating the end of the Howard years which had become just a tad tedious and boring. It was time for some excitement, and Kevin Rudd was just about as exciting as it gets in Australian politics with his ability to speak a foreign language without relying on a phrase book as Alexander Downer had done. Even better, Kevin was an ideas man. Not so much that he had lots of his own, but that he wanted to hear everybody else’s ideas, and that was a bit of a surprise after so many years of autocratic rule. It seemed almost every five minutes a new inquiry or review was announced so that the new government could determine the best way to proceed, presumably because they hadn’t really thought too much further ahead than winning the election and signing the Kyoto protocol.

Of course, the biggest and best round table examination of all the many options for future endeavour was the cleverly named 2020 summit, a name evoking both vision for the future and a timetable for its implementation. At great expense and some organizational difficulty, one thousand carefully selected Australians spent a weekend enjoying scones with jam and cream along with each other’s company coming up with brilliant ideas to make our nation even greater than it already is. Out of that shindig emerged a list of one thousand bright ideas. Remember that? I know it was a while ago, and like I said, we’ve been distracted lately by all the pessimism associated with the end of the world as we knew it.

Now, however, after all this time, the government has announced that out of all those proposals, nine will actually go ahead. Now that doesn’t necessarily mean that they will come to fruition, just that they will go ahead to the next stage of development. Some of these are indeed magnificent ambitions, like the commitment to spend $50 million on research towards the development of a bionic eye, while others are perhaps more ethereal such as the idea of so called “Golden Gurus”, which involves retirees providing the rest of us with the benefit of their experience and advice.

One of the nine is the proposal by the ABC and the Childrens’ Television Foundation to create a dedicated childrens’ TV channel. Of all the schemes approved, this is one of the most sensible and worthwhile, because it will provide a service for which there is a clear need, and which the commercial networks would be unlikely to pursue for the simple reason that it would be hard to achieve a viable commercial return.

For the ABC however, it is a different matter, as it exists as a public resource which is not driven by commercial imperatives, but by community needs. Dedicating a children’s channel achieves exactly that, and for the taxpayers who will foot the bill it is both a community service and an investment in the future of the nation. It’s even a bonus for people who do not have children, because that means that other channels are less likely to all have kids programming on at the same time. Best of all, it means there will be at least one channel where there is no Gordon Ramsay.

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