It was time to end the disconnect in Australian politics: the disconnect between our political dialogue and our real needs. Too much of the public debate was about gesture rather than answers. The challenge was to identify broadly agreed principles for a new and different reform agenda.
In April 2002 the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, at the University of Melbourne, and The Australian rose to this challenge. The upshot was a national conversation, Towards Opportunity and Prosperity, between leading thinkers from academia, politics, public service, business, unions and community groups.
Topics covered included:
* Unemployment, Joblessness and Welfare Reform
* Education and Innovation
* Population Policy
* Work and Family
* Ageing and Retirement
* Health Policy
* The Environment and the Kyoto Protocol
* Are We Becoming a Branch Office Economy?
* Microeconomic Reform
Peter Dawkins and Paul Kelly, two of Australia s leading policy analysts and commentators, draw out the main threads of the policy debates in these areas, and plot the outlines of the new reform agenda which emerged from this fascinating and wide-ranging conversation. , but placing more emphasis on the human dimension-a 'hard heads, soft hearts' approach.