House of Representatives Speech- Asian Century

The government's white paper published this week, Australia in the Asian century, deals with a matter of great importance to all Australians. Put simply, it is the government's plan to make sure that Australia is a winner in the Asian century. It takes a particularly negative approach to label a white paper such as this, on a matter of such significance to all Australians, a 'waste of time'. But that is what the member for North Sydney did, and that was before even reading it.

The government's white paper published this week, Australia in the Asian century, deals with a matter of great importance to all Australians. Put simply, it is the government's plan to make sure that Australia is a winner in the Asian century. It takes a particularly negative approach to label a white paper such as this, on a matter of such significance to all Australians, a 'waste of time'. But that is what the member for North Sydney did, and that was before even reading it.

Tonight we have had the member for Indi—who claimed she had read the white paper, at least enough to quote from it—with more of the hallmark negativity we have come to associate with this opposition. After two years of running all over the country repeating the gross misrepresentations of the Leader of the Opposition about the carbon price, the member for Indi is realising, it would seem, that the carbon price scare campaign is running out of puff. So she has turned her negativity and misrepresentation tonight to the Asian century white paper. The anti-carbon-price campaign has run out of puff because the crazy predictions of Whyalla becoming a ghost town or the coal industry coming to an end or $100 legs of lamb simply have not happened, and they are not going to happen. The mad forecasts of prices going up and up and up, and job losses, and the madder forecasts of business failure have not come to pass either, and they are not going to come to pass.

From the member for Mayo we have just had a little bit more misrepresentation about the alleged effects of the carbon price on the health system. They are without foundation. They ignore the arrangements between the federal government and the state governments over the health system, in particular hospitals. Instead of apologising to the people of Australia for the falsely based scare campaign that we have now had to endure for over two years from those opposite, instead of apologising to the people of Australia, which is what the Liberal Party should be doing, the negativity is now turned to other topics. For the member for Indi, that apparently means selectively and sneeringly quoting from the Asian century white paper rather than giving it serious thought and actually debating something that is of great importance to the future of our country. This is from a party with no plan for the future, no plan for a modern Australia and no plan for a deeper engagement with our region—just negative and destructive carping and sneering.

I do not have time to canvass more than a couple of aspects of the Asian century white paper which this opposition is so quick to condemn. It is important to understand it for what it is. We have been working to get our nation ready for the century of change that is upon us. The white paper brings together the policy directions that our government has already been working on, and it adds to those policy directions. It is a policy paper not just for the government but for the whole of our community. So for the member for Indi to deride this paper on the basis that it offers some suggestions to the business community as to how they might better engage with Asia is to entirely and apparently wilfully misunderstand the purpose of a white paper and to misunderstand the purpose of this particular white paper. The direction we are heading in is higher skills, higher incomes, more job opportunities for Australians. As the white paper explains, we are aiming to see a growth in national income for all Australians. We are aiming to see our country put in the top 10 in the world and, by 2025, to see an average increase in incomes of $11,000. We have been working very directly to get our nation ready.

The passages in the white paper I would commend to all members of this parliament dealing with language education—far from being sneered at—grapple with one of the great inadequacies that we have in Australia, which is an inadequate understanding of languages of other countries, and particularly the languages of Asian nations. That is why this white paper contains three national objectives to increase our Asian literature as a core requirement so that all students will have an opportunity to study an Asian language from their first day at school through to year 12.