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Gillard to Reveal Australia's Asian Century goals
Source: abc.net.au
Source Date: Sunday, October 28, 2012
Focus: Electronic and Mobile Government
Country: Australia
Created: Nov 01, 2012

Prime Minister Julia Gillard will this afternoon outline her blueprint for Australia's future in Asia.

The Asian Century white paper will highlight the need for the country to have a highly skilled, high wage economy.

It sets a goal for one-in-three board members of the top 200 listed companies and one-third of the senior leadership of the public service to have a deep understanding of Asia.

The paper will identify China, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea and the United States as the six countries that matter the most to Australia.

It also recommends an expanded university scholarship program and there is set to be a modest increase in Australia's diplomatic presence in Asia.

Economically, the paper calls for Australia businesses to produce high-value goods and services in line with Asia's growing middle class.

But Shadow Treasurer Joe Hockey says if the Federal Government does not put money on the table as part of today's White Paper it will be a waste of time.

Mr Hockey says the ideas need to be backed up with funding commitments.

"Unless there is substantial money associated with that paper it's a waste of time. These guys get a gold medal at the reports and inquiries olympics. that's what they deserve but they never actually deliver," he told ABC's Insiders program.

'Power of proximity'
Tim Harcourt, an international trade and labour specialist, says over the past century Australia's proximity to Asia has changed from a liability to an asset.

Mr Harcourt says while the White Paper is just the latest in a series of engagements with the region, how Australia interacts with Asia will have a massive impact on our future prosperity.

"It is more about engaging and finding our place in the region. We used to always talk about the tyranny of distance - now it is the power of proximity," he said.

"It is basically time zones, complementary economies, engagement, more people to people links, and basically widening and deepening our points of engagement with Asia."

Asia-Pacific expert Professor Andrew MacIntyre says Australia needs to have a national conversation about its relationship with Asia.

He said he expects the white paper will be a blueprint for national change and outline ways for Australia to accelerate its engagement with the region.

"There needs to be greater comprehension across Australian society of the scale and pace of change that's taking place out there," he said.

"We need to look at ways to better prepare ourselves and better engage and that can take place in a number of ways.

"This is not just about government it is very important to realise this is not just about government; it's about how our businesses relate to the region, it's about how our education institutions, at all levels, prepare the country and themselves."

Professor MacIntyre said if Australia's government, education and creative sectors fail to allocate their involvement and understanding of the opportunities in the region, the country will be left behind.
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