A concerted, Australia-wide effort is required to dramatically ‘lift our game’ in Asia

Report of lunch with Shadow Treasurer, Hon Chris Bowen MP Sydney, 6 February 2019

Labor’s principal architect for future Australian engagement with Asia, Shadow Treasurer, Chris Bowen, addressed a cross-section of 60 influential Australians at a lunch hosted for the Global Foundation by leading global law firm, King & Wood Mallesons, in Sydney on 6 February, 2019.

Along with his keynote address, Mr Bowen also engaged in a lengthy Q & A session with guests.


Key message – Australia needs to dramatically step up with Asia

    • The world is undergoing a major strategic shift towards a rebalancing of international power arrangements, a transition that is still fluid and uncertain, at the same time that globalisation is under threat.
    • Much of this transformation is taking place in Asia, where economic and security relations may diverge and all powers will be affected.
    • Australia faces unique circumstances in this regard, with its economic prosperity dependant on an open world economy and increasingly, Asia.
    • The magnitude of this challenge is so great for Australia that it will require a sustained and concerted effort, not only from governments of the day.
    • Fundamental to navigating Australia’s future will be a clearer understanding of its national values and its national interests, which are not necessarily identical.
    • It will require the Australian community to continue to understand and support economic globalisation that also ensures its benefits are fairly shared.
  • Australia’s national interest calls for a strategy that incorporates China and USA, not one or the other.
  • Labor’s FutureAsia strategy if in Government, will require a sincere and ongoing commitment by all Australians to building more sophisticated relationships and partnerships with Asia, at both personal and institutional levels.
  • Cultural understanding of Asia is critical, for example with Indonesia set to become the world’s 4th largest economy by 2050.
  • However, alarmingly low numbers of Australians are studying Asian languages. Only 130 Australians with no Chinese heritage are able to conduct a business negotiation in Mandarin.
  • Labor’s FutureAsia framework will apply across Government, if elected, to encourage Australia to ‘lift it’s game’ in Asia. Its progress will be measured and reported annually to Parliament by the Treasurer.
  • New ideas to populate the framework were specifically invited by Mr Bowen at the lunch.
  • The Global Foundation, with its wide network of supporters and extensive history of engagement in Asia and in the Australian community, is well placed to assist this process and was specifically invited to do so by the Shadow Treasurer.

The next step

  • The Foundation will shortly circulate a paper to its Key Partners, Corporate and University members, to invite their input to proposals it intends to submit to Mr Bowen for consideration under Labor’s FutureAsia strategy.

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