Now It's Up To The Tough Guys
Monday April 21, 2008
THE paintings in the National Portrait Gallery have come off the walls, found themselves a drink and are standing around talking about ideas. The gallery is hosting the reception to welcome delegates to the summit, 150 of whom have portraits in the collection. I am no oil painting.I turn around and bump into Wayne Swan. He's happy he's just been talking to country women and carers. Middle Australia comes to Canberra. Everyone is glad to be here.SATURDAYTV tonight will be mostly politicians and movie stars, but there's more happening. Yes, some specific new ideas. Business leaders to mentor kids in struggling schools. Every house in Australia solar panelled and energy metered. Unlimited skilled migration.But this is a day for talking about ideas, not just policies. So it's the new big themes and new connections between issues that matter most. The micro-economists want to talk about early childhood development. Regional security experts want to talk about climate change.The premiers are in and out of sessions, some more impressive than others.Tonight, some of the policy fixations collide: randomised policy trials, binge drinking, grassroots action. GetUp! hosts drinks at the press club.SUNDAYWe have drunk all the skim milk in Parliament House. No more skinny coffees.I hear an ANU economist sum up what he has learnt: teaching poor kids has to be the most important job in Australia.Good people, good ideas, plus a Government that wants to change things, equals hope.On any other day Parliament House is a place of competition among the toughest, funniest, most capable, most obscene people in Australia. But on Monday, the tough guys are back.