Public consultations on the Asian Century Country Strategies
Consultations held around Australia, April-May 2013
Tasmania: 22–23 April
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade First Assistant Secretary for South East Asia, Allaster Cox, led a team of Australian officials for consultations in Tasmania from 22-23 April 2013 to help develop Australia in the Asian Century country strategies for Japan, China, Indonesia, India and South Korea. Mr Cox was supported by Hobart-based representatives from Austrade and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC). The team held public consultations in Hobart and Launceston and met with state and local government officials and representatives.
The public consultations attracted a high degree of interest from the Tasmanian community. Business participation ranged from peak industry bodies to small businesses eager to expand in Asian markets. The consultations were enriched by contributions from a wide cross-section of the community – university academics, high school teachers and students. Members of the Australian Asian community, in particular from Indonesia, also made a valuable contribution.
Consultations with State government agencies confirmed the convergence between the Australian and Tasmanian Governments' respective White Papers on the Asian Century. The discussion focused on how the country strategies could help support Tasmania's future in Asia, and underlined the important role that governments can play in connecting communities.
Discussions also underlined the unique importance of Hobart and the Antarctic Division to facilitate engagement with Asian nations, particularly China, on Antarctic science, climate change and related disciplines.
Northern Territory: 1 May
The public consultations at the Darwin Convention Centre from 1-2 May attracted strong interest from the Territory community. Consultations were enriched by contributions from a wide cross-section of the community – business and professional associations, academics, high school teachers and students.
These discussions confirmed that the Territory's proximity to Asia and its diverse cultures mean the region has unique insights into engagement with Asia. Territorians were keen to share their experience of complementarities, historic links, trade ties and community connections and to offer suggestions for a dynamic vision of Australia in Asia in 2025.
In the team's roundtable meetings with Territory government agencies and senior figures in the mining and resources, cattle, education, health and arts sectors, discussions included a focus on the need for enhanced mobility and movement of people between Australia and Asia; and on leveraging off existing relationships through alumni networks, internships, residencies and exchanges.
Western Australia: 6 May
Productive consultations were held in Perth from 6 – 7 April 2013 including through a public forum and roundtable discussions with local governments and the education and cultural sectors. The discussions highlighted strong interest in Western Australia in: the value of language learning as a gateway to Asia and the best ways to encourage Australian students to follow through their language study; the importance of concluding free trade agreements as a way to remove barriers to trade and investment; better linking international students with Australian business as a means both of improving Australia's educational offerings and providing business with ready access to specific country expertise; the importance of sub-national engagement through sister-city or sister-state relationships or business targeting specific provinces/states; the role of the media in raising public awareness of Asia in Australia; and how to move beyond cultural promotional activities to deeper cultural exchange and collaboration.
South Australia: 8 May
Public consultations in Adelaide on 8 May attracted a cross-section of representatives from the business, community, NGO and education sectors across South Australia. Discussion covered a diversity of interests and concerns including: the challenges for attracting and retaining foreign students in the state; the value of language skills as a means to understand cultural differences; the importance of sport as a tool for closer regional engagement; the challenge of the high Australian dollar and the opportunities available from harnessing the skills and knowledge of South Australia's university alumni.
State government agencies shared their experiences in China and in developing South Australia's India strategy. They also identified the challenges for the state's small-medium sized businesses in developing the knowledge and capability to operate in new Asian markets. A separate roundtable with education institutions discussed how to increase demand for Australian students to learn Asian languages and visa-related challenges associated with supporting overseas students coming to Australia.
Community representatives discussed engaging diaspora organisations based in South Australia and harnessing the expertise of dual-citizens with valuable insights into regional relationships.
Victoria: 10 May
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Assistant Secretary for East Asia, Graeme Meehan, led consultations in Melbourne on 9-10 May 2013.
The public consultations solicited wide interest with over 200 attendees covering a broad cross section of interests. Discussion focused on language tuition at both the school and tertiary level and its merits in enhancing Asia literacy. Increasing opportunities for people to people links especially through greater educational exchanges found strong support. Business interests identified improving market access as a priority, particularly through concluding bilateral Free Trade Agreements currently under negotiation. There was some discussion about promoting cultural exports and leveraging existing internationally focused cultural programs.
In separate consultations with the state government and Victorian businesses other issues raised included the importance of Asian languages and Asia capabilities more generally; national branding and the role of government, business and the community in promoting Australia in the region; and the need to reduce barriers to greater trade and investment links with Asia.
New South Wales: 14 May
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade First Assistant Secretary for North Asia, Peter Rowe, led the team of Australian officials for consultations in Sydney on 14-15 May 2013.
A roundtable with state government representatives highlighted the importance of improving information-sharing, infrastructure and mobility in people and capital in New South Wales. The increased engagement by both state and federal government with Asia was highlighted by the NSW Department of Trade and Investment's International Engagement Strategy, which identifies ten priority markets, seven of which are in Asia.
A major theme of consultations with representatives from universities and other education institutions was leveraging the perception of New South Wales as a unique and high-quality education destination. Discussions also underlined that increasing access to Asian language learning, cultural awareness and exchange opportunities will enhance people-to-people links.
The public consultations attracted wide interest with around 300 attendees. Participants included think tanks, university representatives, teachers, students, language associations, business representatives, peak industry bodies and individuals from the large Asian diaspora in New South Wales. The broad-ranging discussion produced valuable insights for improving links between community, business and government in Australia and Asia including: the importance of strong national brand promotion to increase the value of 'Australian-made'; the challenge from negative perceptions of Asia in Australian media; the role of faith-based groups in furthering people to people and community links; and the opportunities available from better harnessing Australia's migrant communities.
Queensland: 16 May
A team encompassing officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Austrade and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship held consultations in Brisbane from 15-17 May 2013.
More than 100 representatives from across Queensland covering business, education, community organisations and government attended the public consultation session on 16 May. Discussions highlighted the potential of leveraging linkages between community, business and government activities to achieve broader and deeper relationships with the target countries. Participants engaged on a wide range of overlapping concerns and ideas, including business internships, sister city relationships, Australia's bilateral FTA negotiations, school and university language teaching resources, career pathways for language graduates, school and community partnerships with Asia and opportunities for working with international students to boost Asian literacy in schools, local government and business.
The public consultations were followed by a series of roundtables with Queensland Government agencies, local government representatives, the tertiary education sector, the Queensland Tourism Council and the Queensland Resources Council. Participants engaged on diverse issues important to Queensland and the Country Strategies, including education, employment, tourism and international investment.
Australian Capital Territory: 28 May
Hosted by the Australian National University’s (ANU) College of Asia and the Pacific, officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, the Australian Trade Commission, and the Department of Immigration and Citizenship held consultations in Canberra on 28 May.
More than 150 representatives covering academia, community, business and industry groups attended the public consultation session at ANU’s University House. There was extensive discussion on the role of language learning and bilingualism more broadly. Academics highlighted the importance of commencing learning at the early childhood level, while demand-side issues and the importance of cultural fluency were also major points of discussion. Community and student groups highlighted the important role migrants and diaspora communities could play in improving Australia’s Asia capability and called for enhanced dialogue with government. Some recent and current university students underscored the importance of taking in the views of youth in developing stronger relations with the region, including through bilateral youth dialogues.
In separate country sessions, attendees suggested we should strive for a greater appreciation of Asian culture within Australian society and examine ways of providing greater in-country support for Australians seeking to study or work in the region. Also raised was how negative public perceptions, including in the media, can inhibit engagement with the region.