Peter Garrett, Australia's federal minister for the environment, heritage and the arts, will deliver the keynote speech at the inaugural Song Summit Sydney on Thursday. The former Midnight Oil singer will discuss "the politics of art" and the future of music in Australia.

According to Garrett, "The act of creating a work like a song through the hard labour of imagination gives up something special which at one end entertains, at the other, feeds the soul. And in the case of the Australian music industry along the way provides a unique reflection of our ideals, our values and of course fuel for our economy."

The summit, held April 3-5 at the Hordern Pavilion and the Royal Hall of Industries, is Australia's first major summit aimed at songwriters and composers. It has been organized by the Australasian Performing Right Association (APRA) and Australasian Mechanical Copyright Owners Society (AMCOS) and features a conference, retail exhibition, masterclasses, students clinics and songwriter showcases.

Attendance is expected to be 800 to 1,000, says Sally Howland, Sydney-based director of member services for the two associations.

The New South Wales government has committed to funding the event at least until 2010.

International panelists and workshop presenters include songsmiths Jimmy Webb, Paul Williams, Sandi Thom and James Mercer of the Shins, and executives from American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI) and the U.K.'s Performing Right Society (PRS).

Howland tells, "The driving force behind the summit is to provide tools and information and resources to help build a career for our 50,000 members." But, she adds, the summit is also "trying to engage the broader community, and trying to stress the cultural importance of music and building a respect for it."

Aside from addressing issues directly pertinent to songwriters and composers -- including technology, copyright and studio techniques -- panels will drill into indigenous culture, and venue owners' plans to revitalize the grassroots live music sector.

The event will be filmed and podcast through next week.