The Australian Government’s blueprint for Australia’s prosperity in the Asian century is an important first step but the real work still lies ahead.
The white paper released by the government yesterday, Australia in the Asian Century, outlines a broad vision for how Australia could more effectively engage with Asia, but bringing this high-minded vision to life is key. The paper is essentially a compendium of much discussed and, indeed, much-needed measures.
The important questions in our view are: where is the money coming from and what are the timelines?
A dedicated Cabinet Minister with responsibility for delivering on the aims of the white paper represents the most tangible political commitment to a comprehensive and successful engagement to the region. Such a minister would enable more effective coordination at a policy and budgetary level and in doing so, ease the path to implementation. Critically, this measure would send a very important and positive message of Australia’s commitment to those with whom we wish to more fully engage.
The white paper again highlights CPA Australia’s caution against the rush to return the Budget to a nominal surplus. Australia's circumstances require long-term thinking and measures that would enmesh Australia’s fortunes more effectively with the fastest growing and most dynamic region.
More than ever, businesses need policy certainty that would spur innovation, entrepreneurialism and measured risk. Together these would best position business to achieve the type of high-end, value-added, knowledge economy-driven industry that represents Australia’s best chance of a competitive advantage and long-term prosperity.
Blueprints are important, but equally important is the need to move quickly to put some tangible policy and budgetary stakes in the ground.– Alex Malley
CPA Australia has long advocated for tangible commitments to many of the initiatives contained in the white paper. These include:
• A significant policy and budgetary commitment to the teaching and learning of Asian languages and culture in our schools
• Clear and urgent measures to address infrastructure bottlenecks
• A tax system to boost Australian businesses’ competitiveness and productivity
• A deeper business, institutional and academic engagement with Asia
• Focus on the knowledge economy with high-end, value added industry and a skilled workforce
Businesses must also increase and improve efforts at greater engagement, along with tangible commitments from our political leaders. New CPA Australia research emphatically shows that there remains an overriding view among Asian business decision-makers of Australian disengagement among those in the Asia-Pacific region with whom Australia wishes to do business.
CPA Australia can speak on this from rich experience, having been active in the Asian region for more than 60 years. Indeed, the organisation is cited in the white paper as a case study.
Blueprints such as these are important, but equally important in the case of Australia’s engagement with Asia is the need to move quickly to put some tangible policy and budgetary stakes in the ground. Too often we have seen good ideas articulated in such papers, left to gather dust, or adopted in half-hearted fashion.
This time, however, there is too much at stake. The white paper presents an opportunity for Australia to build on its many existing strengths and, importantly, develop new ones where necessary.
Time is of the essence. Competitors, and would-be competitors, are already wise to the opportunities presented by the Asian region and are acting accordingly.
Alex Malley is CEO of CPA Australia.
Click here to view CPA Australia’s submission to the Asian Century White paper taskforce.