The decisions that politicians make, or refuse to make, change our nation. Whether such changes are good, bad, or ugly is a matter of political rhetoric and debate. Nevertheless, it is in the national interest that our politicians and their hinterland of policymakers have the best possible information about what the consequences of their action – or inaction – might be.
In 2019, it is not uncommon to read critiques about the impact to the common weal of rising populism and deliberate ignorance on the part of political decision makers. We regularly hear arguments that our politics has become personality driven and dumbed down; that it is too focused on the short term; that Australian public policymakers have lost the skill of identifying emerging challenges and addressing them before they cause irreparable harm. This speaks to a larger question: where should new ideas and thinking be coming from?
Whether or not these arguments ring true, this volume contains 11 essays from newly elected federal Senators and Members of Parliament which address long-term policy challenges facing our nation. We have sought through this project to create a space, slightly removed from the maelstrom of day-to-day parliamentary politics, for our newest politicians to think and write about our future public policy needs.
We asked a total of 24 new MPs and Senators to submit an essay, a short bio and a photograph. As well as those elected in the 2019 federal election, we also included some new parliamentarians who had been elected or appointed in by-elections or to fill casual Senate vacancies in 2018. We sought to include proportionate representation from the various political parties, reach gender equality, and have fair representation from each state and territory. In total we asked 12 Members and Senators from the Coalition, nine from the Australian Labor Party, one from the Greens Party and two independents. We had a fair amount of interest in the project from most of those invited to contribute, though many were unable to due to time constraints. In total this publication includes essays from six Labor Members and Senators, three from the Coalition, one Greens and one independent. Of these, six are women and five are men. There is at least one essayist from each state and territory aside from Tasmania and the Northern Territory.
We are currently at the commencement of the Commonwealth’s 46th Parliament – our 50th Parliament will serve from 2031 to 2034 (assuming each parliament between now and then runs for its full three years). The essayists in this publication may, in 15 years’ time, be cabinet ministers or party leaders. It is comforting to know that they are thinking seriously about our nation’s future.
The essayists in this publication, as emerging national leaders, are not mere recipients of an uncertain future. Rather, they will act upon and shape the future of our economy, democracy, and society. Whether their ideas crystallise into acts of parliament and ministerial decisions is largely a question for the authors, their colleagues, and those who read this publication. It is our hope that these ideas will be picked up, reiterated, refined and reframed over coming years, and that by 2034 they will be ripe and ready for active government consideration in the national interest.