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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

the Asian century? « Previous | |Next »
October 29, 2012

The Australian Government’s Australia in the Asian Century White Paper comes at a time when the mining boom is over and Australia needs to shift beyond being Asia's quarry, or Australia's traditional 'rocks and crops' engagement with Asia. It's a picture of Australia after the mining boom.

RoweD3p[oductivty.jpg David Rowe

The White Paper recognizes, it's own words, that:

The Asian century is an Australian opportunity. As the global centre of gravity shifts to our region, the tyranny of distance is being replaced by the prospects of proximity. Australia is located in the right place at the right time—in the Asian region in the Asian century....An increasingly wealthy and mobile middle class is emerging in the region, creating new opportunities. They are demanding a diverse range of goods and services, from health and aged care to education to household goods, and tourism, banking and financial services, as well as high‑quality food products.

It argues that it is in the interests of all Australians—and therefore in the national interest—to develop the capabilities and connections that Australia will need, so that we can contribute to, and learn from, the region, and take full advantage of these opportunities.

It's a good and familiar roadmap, as it one that we know quite well: Australia needs to lift productivity, be fairer, be smarter, be better educated etc. It is a more realistic road map than the Queenland's dinosaur one of coal being the future based on the coal industry's carbon capture scenario. Treasury secretary Martin Parkinson shows why.

He talks about three phases of Australia’s Asian Century boom: Asia’s extraordinary demand for our minerals and energy; then, as incomes rise, its demand for high-quality food; and finally, with the rise of Asia’s middle class, its demand for professional and tourism services and niche manufacturing.

However, the roadmap assumes that Asia is out there which Australia needs to adapt to. It does not see Australia as being within Asian, nor does it address the fear of Asia held by many Australians.

The puzzle is: how are we going to get to this kind of high skill future? The road map states that with the right plan, we can make the new middle-class Asia a new market for a high-wage, high-skill Australia. What is the right plan? For instance, how would the NBN facilitate this? If so, how?

Will it be through high-growth tech companies? Creating a world-leading technology city to rival Silicon Valley? Does Australia's Tech City---the Digital Harbor in Melbourne's Docklands---have a global profile? Are the majority of serious tech people in Asia and around the world now aware of "Tech City"? Does Australia even have entrepreneur visas' [a fast-track visa scheme for entrepreneurs]? Does Australia have a world-class computer science university near "Tech City"?

Unfortunately, there is no plan to implement the vision other an increase in schools studying an Asian language by 2025 and engaging with the history and culture of the nation states in the region. This "Asian literacy' covers over the probability that in a high-wage, high-skill Australia the wages of semi-skilled and unskilled workers in declining industries will continue to fall further behind those of skilled Australians. The gap between high and low-income earners will widen because unskilled workers will struggle to gain a foothold in the expanding skill-intensive sectors.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:15 AM | | Comments (11)
Comments

Comments

This was something first raised seriously during the Hawke '80's;
"Engage with Asia/Clever Country".
Since that time, economic rationalism has pervaded and ultimately choked the forward planning instincts of politicians and bureaucrats and little has been done with education but cut its funding, rational ecology based planning has withered before selfish "development" imperatives and property "rights" and media has been dumbed down.
The education system laboured mightily for the Sparrow's Fart of the Asian Student Rip-Off Schemes of mid last decade onwards and Australians themselves are now strangers to their own educational institutions, unless these are taxpayer-milked private institutions.
If lack of imagination created wealth, we'd all be billionaires.

Are schools the best place to teach Asian languages---Mandarin, Hindi, Indonesian Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese and Thai?
Are students interested in learning these languages.

Isn't English the world's lingua franca?

The White Paper rejects the containment of China policy:

We welcome China’s rise, not just because of the economic and social benefits it has brought China’s people and the region (including Australia), but because it deepens and strengthens the entire international system… We accept that China’s military growth is a natural, legitimate outcome of its growing economy and broadening interests."

It is the defence and security establishment that responds to the rise of China through a containment policy. The defence and security establishment are following Washington in this.

paul,
Australia's engagement with Asia since the 1980s was premised on the US as a cornerstone of that engagement or looking towards the West ( US and Europe).

That has shifted with Ken Henry 's White Paper. Australia's engages with Asia on its own.

Vietnam, Korea, Cambodia, Laos, Malaya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Bougainville, Mozambique, Indonesia, Solomon islands.

We have had soldiers in all of these countries that are in or near our region at some time in my life,

Nice of us to look at them as an 'opportunity' now.

Progress of sorts I suppose.
Maybe we'll welcpme some of them as 'boat people'?

Sorry, feeling a bit cynical.

It's a picture that ties together all the reforms of Gillard Labor into one package. The reality is that fiscal constraints (budget surpluses) will mean that driving innovation and knowledge for the Asian century will be rather limited.

Will Australian businesses be able to adapt to the demands of Asia’s emerging middle class and position themselves in the global value chain at the high end? Their conception of productivity is lowering wages and reducing working conditions. They are not in favour of high wages and research and development.

"the roadmap assumes that Asia is out there which Australia needs to adapt to. It does not see Australia as being within Asia."

Kanishka Jayasuriya in an article in the Conversation says:

The related point here is that the “cultural adaptation” argument invariably refers to a region “out there”, rather than seeing Australia as a part of the region. For example, one of the great benefits of research and strategic collaboration with the region is that we can partner with Asia to confront the societal and scientific challenges confronting all of us in the region. If we do really want to take the high road to Asia, we need to see the region as part of us — and not a canvas on which to etch out our particular vision of prosperity.

It was Paul Keating who argued that it wasn't enough for Australia to just trade with the Asian economies to our North; rather, Australia needed to reassess our European-focused national identity and take our place in the growing, dynamic region on our doorstep.

Keating's big picture was Australia as a modern, outward-looking cosmopolitan nation. That was decisively rejected by the conservative backlash lead by Howard against 'elite' agendas. Australia's role was to be the US's deputy sheriff in the Asia Pacific. The conservative's picture was fortress Australia turned inward to fight the cultural wars.

Many Australians fear Asia and that fear is exploited by the National and Liberal Party

"Keating's big picture was Australia as a modern, outward-looking cosmopolitan nation. That was decisively rejected by the conservative backlash lead by Howard against 'elite' agendas"

Not just Howard conservatives.

Joel Fitzgibbon, Labor's chief whip who represents the NSW coal-producing seat of Hunter, defends the coal industry and attacks the "Green ideology" that informs the renewable energy target.

He says that we should not have a renewable energy target at all, and that it is Australia abundance of fossil fuels which in part makes Australia economically competitive.