ACOSS Conference Wraps Up in Sydney
30 March 2012 at 7:17 pm
L-R Eva Cox, Rebecca Huntley, Adam Bandt, Annabel Crabb. Photo: Jackie Hanafie
The 2012 ACOSS conference has wrapped up in Sydney, finishing with a lively panel discussion on the future of Australia.
In a fitting way to end two full days of policy debate and discussion on how best to distribute the wealth of the ‘lucky country’, the panel, comprising some of Australia’s most well-known commentators, told delegates of their vision for Australia in 2030.
Former NCOSS director Eva Cox kicked off the discussion and told delegates her vision for the future was: “that we can start talking about living in a society not living in an economy”.
“Everybody including our Treasurer stands up and preaches about how we’re going to get economic growth and if we get more economic growth and more people in the workforce everything will be alright.
“But we need to actually think about what makes life worthwhile. I want to get optimism back. I want to get society back on the agenda, where we work to live, not live to work,” Cox said to erupting applause from the audience.
From the market research firm Ipsos, the Ipsos Mackacy Report’s director Rebecca Huntley spoke of her vision for less of a society of extremely wealthy people complaining about how heavily taxed they are, while Greens Federal Member for Melbourne Adam Bandt said that he hoped in 2030 there would be two things we weren’t afraid to talk about: equality and revenue.
“I’m very concerned that equality is slipping off the national agenda,” Bandt said.
Journalist Annabel Crabb talked about her vision to eliminate loneliness by 2030 in what she considers an “achievable” vision.
The Australian's George Megalogenis was also on the panel.
The panel’s vision statements evoked loud cheers and applause from the audience, in a hugely positive response to the panellists’ hopes for Australia’s future.
Earlier in the day, the Minister for Human Services Kim Carr spoke to delegates about the way in which the Federal Government can redefine its relationship with Australians through the newly created Department of Human Services.
Senator Carr acknowledged that the department was central to the way in which Australians live.
“It [the department] is the doorway for most people to government,” Carr said.
“Centrelink and Medicare are well-known and mostly well-regarded. Nearly every Australian has direct contact with DHS on an occasional, if not a regular basis.”
But Senator Carr said there was still work to be done for the government to keep the ‘human’ in human services.
“While it may be horrifying to shock jocks, I say people are entitled to that basic right,” Carr said.
“They ought come to Centrelink without guilt, without shame and without apology. They ought come with an expectation that Centrelink can do more than just process a claim. It ought be able to connect them to genuine economic opportunities.”
But Senator Carr argued the concept that the private, public and community sectors can each pursue their aims in their own silos is “absurd” particularly when it comes to tackling economic disadvantage.
“Government agencies, in common with banks, insurance companies and power and communications utilities, have to meet increasing expectations on service delivery,” he said.
“At the same time, they have to face up to the reality of fiscal constraint and cost-cutting.
“These challenges are particularly acute for agencies like DHS, working on the frontline of the two-speed economy.”
Senator Carr said that while he was optimistic about the Australian community’s ability to respond to the economic and social challenges they face, the government cannot separate the human services portfolio from the government’s broader economic agenda.
“Nor can we separate it from people with a stake in these matters in the wider world,” he said.
“Without economic opportunity, social inclusion policies have limited value.
“This is why building economic capacity in this country is so important.
“We all have to work together to face up to the economic, social and technological transformation we are seeing today,” Carr said.