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University of Western Australia: Panel reflects on lost decade of ‘The Asian Century’

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It is a decade since the Gillard Government released Australia in the Asian Century, a White Paper recognising Asia’s rising prominence in the global economy that laid out a roadmap for Australia to emerge stronger.

An upcoming panel will discuss the gap between policy and practice over the past decade, reflecting on Australia’s missed opportunities and relative successes in the Asian region through the lens of ‘The Asian Century’.

The online discussion, hosted by The University of Western Australia’s Public Policy Institute, will examine the current state of Australia’s role in the Asian region and explore which important lessons we should take into the future.

Asian city and traditional temple

The Director of the UWA Public Policy Institute and panel moderator, Professor Shamit Saggar, said Australia’s relationship with the Asian region, both geographically and economically, has long been a sleeping giant within our public policy landscape.

“Despite the White Paper’s accurate projection of the region’s growth over the past ten years, Australia has lacked a cohesive policy platform since its release,” Professor Saggar said.

“A critical assessment of Australia’s political apathy towards Asia is essential to coordinate policy geared towards our future growth, not just at home but abroad.”

The panel will include Hon. Peter Tinley AM, MLA, former Minister for Asian Engagement; Emeritus Professor Peter Drysdale from the ANU Crawford School of Public Policy; Professor Dewi Anwar from the Indonesian Institute of Sciences; and Professor Helen Sullivan, Dean of ANU’s College of Asia and the Pacific.

Professor Drysdale, a member of the government’s advisory panel for the White Paper, said that since it was launched, Australia’s endeavours to engage with Asia have been swamped by geopolitical tides and the entrenchment of defensive strategies rooted in alliance frameworks that excluded the region.

Mr Tinley said Australia has made patchy progress in seizing the opportunity of a growing Asia.

“Bilateral and multilateral agreements have not delivered on their promise,” Mr Tinley said.

“Too much trade with Asia is transactional based on the buying and selling of products and services. The Asian opportunity for us is to participate in global supply chains through partnerships.”