This paper examines a new economic narrative for Australia to replace the emphasis on ‘competitiveness’ that sustained the wave of reform in the 1980s and 1990s. The need to ensure that Australians are endowed with the capabilities that will be relevant to success in this Asian century calls for a renewed focus on these, and other, national endowments. The White Paper on Australia in the Asian Century identified a need for new foundational investments, including public investments: in Australian schools, universities and vocational training centres; in developing Asia-capable workplaces and institutions; in developing a much deeper understanding of the history, cultures, languages, geography and governance of our regional neighbours; in devoting more effort to what has become known as ‘track 2 diplomacy’; in building strong people-to-people relationships based on trust and mutual respect; and in encouraging adaptability. International competitiveness in the Asian century will be enhanced by paying attention to all of these endowments, and leveraging them into commercial partnerships, not by pursuing a race to the bottom on wages, taxes, social foundations, environmental standards or animal welfare.
Australia in the Asian Century