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Australia in the Asian Century White Paper

Release Date

07 November 2012

The Prime Minister commissioned The Australia in the Asian Century White Paper as she believes Australia can be a “winner in the Asian Century”. The white paper outlines her plan for how Australia can get there. 
In her foreword to the White Paper, the Prime Minister writes:
“Predicting the future is fraught with risk, but the greater risk is in failing to plan for our destiny. As a nation, we face a choice: to drift into our future or to actively shape it.
“That is why I commissioned the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper. I took a clear decision that our nation should actively plan for and shape our national future. Only by doing so can we realise our vision of being a land of increased opportunity, prosperity and fairness.”

Some specific objectives laid out by the White Paper

The White Paper is predominantly focused on a plan to succeed economically in the decades ahead, as the nation moves to broaden its economic base, having taken advantage of the mining boom.
The Prime Minister will state that the challenge we must now address, having benefited from Asia’s appetite for raw materials and energy, is how Australia can benefit from what Asia will need next.
Crucially, the White Paper will outline not a low-wage pathway – on the contrary, it states as an aim that Australia will be a higher skill, higher wage economy with a fair, multicultural and cohesive society and a growing population.
As such, it is important for Australia to be able to take advantage of emerging Asian markets driven by the growth of the Asian middle class.
The White Paper will outline as an objective that Australian businesses offer high-value goods and services as they link into regional value chains. This will be a key part of making sure that the Australian economy is more open and integrated with Asia, with an easier flow of goods, services, capital, ideas and people; and that Australian businesses and investors have greater access to opportunities in Australia.
Specifically, the White Paper focuses on the importance of a range of economic matters, including skills and education; innovation; infrastructure; the tax system; regulatory reform; environmental sustainability.
It will stress the need for decision-makers to have deep knowledge and expertise of countries in the region. It will outline a goal for one-third of board members of Australia’s top 200 listed companies and Commonwealth bodies to have deep experience in and knowledge of Asia. It outlines the same goal for the senior leadership of the Australian Public Service.
The White Paper sets out a comprehensive agenda for making the most of the opportunities ahead. It considers how Australia will successfully navigate the years ahead across five areas: strengthening our economy; building our capabilities; connecting to growing markets; ensuring sustainable security; and nurturing deeper and broader relationships.

In this century, the region in which we live will become home to most of the world’s middle class and will be the world’s largest producer of goods and services, and the largest consumer of them. The scale and pace of Asia’s rise is staggering, and there are significant opportunities and challenges for all Australians.

The Prime Minister will stress that Australia comes to these challenges with firm foundations: a strong economy, a track record of engagement in the region, and the person-to-person connections many Australians already have with people in Asian countries.
The White Paper has a big focus on how to ensure Australia remains prosperous and resilient, with emphasis on the economy and the opportunities for jobs for Australians.
Skills and education are central.  The White Paper states that “Our greatest responsibility is to invest in our people through skills and education to drive Australia’s productivity performance and ensure that all Australians can participate and contribute.”
The White Paper sets ambitious goals for Australia.  From the executive summary:
Australians need to act in five key areas in order to succeed in the Asian century.
First, irrespective of how the Asian century evolves, Australia’s prosperity will come from building on our strengths. We need to reinforce the foundations of our fair society and our prosperous, open and resilient economy at home. We need to build on areas where we already perform well, in order to extend our comparative advantage. Critical to this will be ongoing reform and investment across the five pillars of productivity—skills and education, innovation, infrastructure, tax reform and regulatory reform.

Second, as a nation we must do even more to develop the capabilities that will help Australia succeed. Our greatest responsibility is to invest in our people through skills and education to drive Australia’s productivity performance and ensure that all Australians can participate and contribute.

Third, Australia’s commercial success in the region requires that highly innovative, competitive Australian firms and institutions develop collaborative relationships with others in the region.
Fourth, Australia’s future is irrevocably tied to the stability and sustainable security of our diverse region
Fifth, we need to strengthen Australia’s deep and broad relationships across the region at every level. These links are social and cultural as much as they are political and economic. Improving people-to-people links can unlock large economic and social gains.
Further on this last point, Australia will have more intensive diplomatic ties with key regional nations —China, India, Indonesia, Japan and South Korea—and have expanded ties with many others, from Mongolia to Vietnam and beyond.
In sum, the White Paper sets out what actions can be taken by governments, and also calls on business and communities to play their part in shaping our future.

To download the full paper, visit  

Sara Cheng is Manager, Greater China with Australian Business Consulting & Solutions International Trade team. If you have any questions, please contact her on 02 9458 7341 or

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