Australian government policy must be aligned to the principle of recognising our geographical location in Asia and work to forge far closer cultural and economic links to all Asian countries.
The whitepaper ‘Australia in the Asian Century’ was produced with considerable effort from a wide variety of people and then shelved by the neoliberal Abbott government as soon as they took power. Whilst it received a lot of criticism for proposing approaches rather than very specific policy, the whitepaper seeks more to establish governmental goals, rather than specific policy applications. The idea of establishing the paper title as a fundamental goal of the Australian government needs to be reinstated and extended at the earliest possible moment.
“Australians need to act in five key areas in order to succeed in the Asian century.
First, irrespective of how the Asian century evolves, Australia’s prosperity will come from building on our strengths. We need to reinforce the foundations of our fair society and our prosperous, open and resilient economy at home. We need to build on areas where we already perform well, in order to extend our comparative advantage. Critical to this will be ongoing reform and investment across the five pillars of productivity—skills and education, innovation, infrastructure, tax reform and regulatory reform.
Second, as a nation we must do even more to develop the capabilities that will help Australia succeed. Our greatest responsibility is to invest in our people through skills and education to drive Australia’s productivity performance and ensure that all Australians can participate and contribute. Capabilities that are particularly important for the Asian century include job‑specific skills, scientific and technical excellence, adaptability and resilience. Using creativity and design-based thinking to solve complex problems is a distinctive Australian strength that can help to meet the emerging challenges of this century. As a nation we also need to broaden and deepen our understanding of Asian cultures and languages, to become more Asia literate. These capabilities are needed to build stronger connections and partnerships across the region.
Third, Australia’s commercial success in the region requires that highly innovative, competitive Australian firms and institutions develop collaborative relationships with others in the region. Australian firms need new business models and new mindsets to operate and connect with Asian markets. We will work to make the region more open and integrated, encouraging trade, investment and partnerships. Firms will adapt their business models to seize the opportunities created in our region.
Fourth, Australia’s future is irrevocably tied to the stability and sustainable security of our diverse region. Australia has much to offer through cooperation with other nations to support sustainable security in the region. We will work to build trust and cooperation, bilaterally and through existing regional mechanisms. We will continue to support a greater role for Asian countries in a rules‑based regional and global order. Australia’s alliance with the United States and a strong US presence in Asia will support regional stability, as will China’s full participation in regional developments.
Fifth, we need to strengthen Australia’s deep and broad relationships across the region at every level. These links are social and cultural as much as they are political and economic. Improving people-to-people links can unlock large economic and social gains. While the Australian Government plays a leading role in strengthening and building relationships with partners in the region—with more intensive diplomacy across Asia—others across a broad spectrum spanning business, unions, community groups and educational and cultural institutions also play an important role. Stronger relationships will lead to more Australians having a deeper understanding of what is happening in Asia and being able to access the benefits of growth in our region. In turn, more of our neighbours in the region will know us better than they do today.”
(Australia in the Asian Century whitepaper)