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Tuesday, 30 October 2012
Page: 8398

Asian Century


Senator THORP (Tasmania) (14:07): My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister and Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research, Senator Evans. Can the minister advise the Senate on how the Asian century white paper lays the foundation for our nation's future engagement with our region?

Opposition senators interjecting


Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:07): I am grateful for the question but disappointed that the interjectors from the opposite side seem to think that this is no longer relevant to Australia. The white paper, Australia in the Asian century, is very positive news for all Australians. It provides the foundation and the framework for future engagement in our region. It is a plan to make sure that we take advantage of the developments in Asia and it identifies national objectives across five key areas in which we must act. This is vitally important to Australia leveraging the best possible outcomes we can off the opportunities that exist. The priorities include building on our economic strength, enhancing education and skills, strengthening business ties and expanding and integrating regional markets, deepening relationships at all levels from sport to diplomacy and, finally, sustaining the security of our diverse region. The objectives outlined in the white paper are not limited to the role of government; it is a plan for the whole nation—for business, for unions, for students and for ordinary Australians.

The Prime Minister commissioned the white paper to ensure that we could make clear choices and we could plan the way forward because we know that if we get this right all Australians will benefit from more skills, more jobs and higher incomes, and businesses both large and small will have access to more markets and greater investments. A key part of this is about allowing our students to be more Asia literate, to promote understanding of Asian language and culture; it is also about building broader strengths in the years ahead so that every sector of our economy is dynamic, productive and engaged. As a nation, we must continue to respond to the complex challenges of the Asian century. If we do not, we will be left behind.


Senator THORP (Tasmania) (14:09): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister advise the Senate on how education is central to Australia's plan for future economic strength in the Asian century?


Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:09): The key to ensuring Australia has a strong economy is through having a world-class education system. We cannot compete as a low-skill, low-wage economy and we do not want to. We need an educated and innovative workforce. We want to make sure that the young of this country are open to the vast opportunities that Asia offers this country and we know that education is a key part of that challenge. This government have a proud record of education reform. We have made it one of our priorities in government because we know its importance. Our goal in the Asian century is to lift even further our education standards both in schools and in universities. We want to make sure that all Australian students have access to top quality education but also have the best possible chance to access the opportunities of the rise of Asia through delivering a schools curriculum that emphasises access to an understanding of Asian language and culture. We need to make sure that at all levels Australians are engaged with Asia. (Time expired)


Senator THORP (Tasmania) (14:11): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the minister advise the Senate on how we can strengthen our people to people links in the Asian region through education?


Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:11): One of the greatest success stories in building lifelong people to people links with Asia has been through international education—the success story of our exporting culture into Asia. For the last 25 years Australia has opened up our universities to students from the Asian region. Over the last 10 years, Australia has educated nearly two million students from Asia. We have educated a generation of Asian students who have gone back to their home countries with a deep and abiding affection for Australia. This has been largely a one-way relationship. We need to encourage more Australians and our universities to build relationships in Asia so that Australian students have an understanding of Asia and are able to build links, and understand and identify opportunities. Supporting younger Australians having firsthand experience in Asia is a key part of making our population more Asia literate and building on the opportunities available. (Time expired)