Julia Gillard's Vision for the Asian Century

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Sunday, 27 November 2011 19:23 by Ad astra
The search for the Gillard ‘narrative’ goes on. It seems that journalists, almost as a matter of course, need to include in their pieces some reference to the ‘narrative’, or the lack of it, or feel they must ask yet again: ‘What does she stand for?’ After all the statements that PM Gillard has made in the last few weeks that would enable even the least gifted journalist to discern the answer, the habitual quest persists.

The last piece I wrote was titled: Julia Gillard’s Light on the Hill. Many responded positively, some even felt moved. Yet others felt that a more forward-looking statement, rather than one that reiterated past achievements, might give a more stirring picture of where Julia Gillard and her Government are headed, what their vision might be.

So here is an attempt to do just that. This piece is dedicated to you NormanK.

I have drawn inspiration and some of the content from speeches given by PM Julia Gillard and President Barack Obama during his visit to Australia this month. This is what our PM might say about her vision for the Asian Century.


I have a vision for this country as we move into the Asian Century. A vision that can become reality if we seize our opportunities, make the most of our resources, strengthen our relationships, and make the transitions we must.

We are a nation in transition - transition on many fronts. We are in the midst of change - exciting yet challenging change. Yet there are some things that never change - values that are close to our heart, values Labor is committed to preserve for always.

Above all else we value freedom - freedom of speech and assembly, freedom of religion, freedom from fear and insecurity, freedom to choose our leaders.

We value opportunity - opportunity to have a great education, an education that will equip all our citizens to attain their highest aspirations, to make the most of their talents, to enjoy work that is satisfying and rewarding.

We value fairness - fairness in our society that enables those with the least to gain as much as those with the most, those who have missed out to realize their full potential, those less well endowed to live with dignity, and all to share the prosperity this country offers.

We value equality - an equitable society where no one is left behind. We encourage multiculturalism and harmony in our richly varied society drawn from many parts of the world.

We value justice - a society free from corruption, free from unfair practices, where every citizen can depend on receiving justice when wronged.

With these fundamental values of freedom, opportunity, fairness, equality and justice to support our society, we can look with confidence at the decades, ahead, at the century ahead.

My vision is of an Australia that takes its place confidently within our region, the Asian region. While traditional allegiances to the economies in Europe, the US and Japan will be maintained and advanced, the newer alliances with our Asian neighbors and trading partners will be strengthened in the time ahead.

I have a vision of rapid development in the world's most populous nations, China and India. Already their economies are burgeoning. Already our trade with them is increasing by the year. Already China is the largest importer of our mineral resources. India too needs our resources and will soon be an importer of our uranium.

These developments will enable these nations to lift their citizens out of the poverty and deprivation too many still endure, and enable them to enjoy the benefits of prosperity that we have enjoyed for so long.

I have a vision of similar rapid development with similar benefits among our nearer neighbors, in the teeming millions in the ASEAN countries, in Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, and their close neighbours.

With the addition of China, Japan and Korea in 1999, ASEAN extended it influence and reach, and this was expanded into an associated forum, the East Asia Summit with the inclusion of Australia, New Zealand and India in 2005, and then this year, the US and Russia.

The Summit has become a forum for discussing trade, the removal of tariff barriers, economic development, energy, the environment, climate change, disaster relief, and nation building. Meeting at the time of ASEAN meetings, I envision it will become a powerhouse for regional development. This is the fastest growing region in the world. History will be written here during this century, the Asian Century, as it drives growth around the world. Trade promotes growth, which in turn creates jobs.  We have very favourable terms of trade; we must make the most of this advantageous situation.

I have a vision of a strong Trans Pacific Partnership among the nine Pacific Rim countries that have a combined GDP of around 17 trillion US dollars. At the recent APEC meeting in Honolulu leaders agreed on the broad outlines of the TPP, a comprehensive Free Trade Agreement that eliminates tariffs and other barriers to trade and investment, which will open up countless opportunities for trade and increase economic growth.

I’m very proud of this ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement. It is the most comprehensive trade deal ASEAN has negotiated – a gold standard for trade deals. By opening up our markets to each other, we will create a trading group with a combined population of 620 million people involving some of the fastest growing economies on earth. The Trans Pacific Partnership stands to become a free trade zone bigger than the European Union.

This nation is already contributing strongly to international dialogue through the G20 Forum, APEC and CHOGM, and now through the Trans Pacific Partnership.

President Obama reminded us: “History teaches us the greatest force the world has ever known for creating wealth and opportunity is free markets. So we seek economies that are open and transparent. We seek trade that is free and fair. And we seek an open international economic system, where rules are clear and every nation plays by them. In Australia and America, we understand these principles. We're among the most open economies on earth. History is on the side of the free - free societies, free governments, free economies, free people. And the future belongs to those who stand firm for these ideals, in this region and around the world.”

The Asian region is the fastest growing, and is home to more than half the global economy. It is my intention to ensure that this nation derives benefit from being part of the region’s expanding economy through trade, export of our resources, and generating jobs for our people. At the same time we seek to increase the prosperity and well being of all the people in our region.

How can we, as a peaceful and prosperous nation, contribute to our region and benefit from our association with it?

First, we must ensure that there are jobs for all who can work. Unemployment is a curse that deprives those without a job the dignity, the satisfaction and the rewards of work. Unemployment affects all those who depend on the worker. It demeans. Chronic unemployment often demeans whole generations where no one in a family has employment. We are committed to creating economic conditions that create jobs, jobs and opportunity all around the nation as well as in the turbocharged resources sector.

We are committed to a strong economy, an economy that grows without growing carbon pollution, without damaging our environment. We recognize the potency of free markets to create wealth in economies with a robust financial system, with sensibly regulated financial institutions and an independent central bank – we have our Reserve Bank. We value free enterprise and seek to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship.

We foster investment in the technologies of the future – green renewable energy to give us a clean energy future, up-to-the-minute telecommunications, fast broadband, and the latest infrastructure to support industry, commerce, agriculture, the resources sector, the service and education economy, and tourism. We have legislated to place a price on carbon and a tax on minerals to support infrastructure, boost superannuation, assist small businesses and companies, and simplify tax returns.

We will bring our budget into surplus in 2012/13 in the belief that this is what is needed now so that we can avoid the burden of indebtedness that is crippling economies in Europe. Our national debt is the lowest in the developed world, but we need to repay what was borrowed to support our economy and to avoid recession during the Global Financial Crisis.

While a strong economy is essential for full employment, an education and training system that prepares young people for work is similarly essential. Labor always places great emphasis on education and training. We believe every child is entitled to a great education, and that every apprentice, every person out of work, is entitled to training to fit them for satisfying work. Much of our budget is dedicated to providing those opportunities to all who can benefit.

We know too that good health enables workers to gain the most from their employment. So we continue to develop a health system that caters for all, workers and their families, the young, the aged, the chronically ill and the disabled.

We are giving special emphasis to mental health, especially among the young afflicted with depression and substance abuse as well as to older folk suffering from dementia, and to those with chronic disability. We support medical research and fund scientists seeking breakthroughs in heath care.

Our health system, one of the finest in the world, is in transition to one more strongly supported by Federal funds and with more local control. Reduction of waiting lists, and more focus on community care to take some of the burden from our hospitals, is our objective.

Whatever our internal state of affairs, we seek safety from external threat. Peace and security is the desire of all people. This is why we continue our commitment in Afghanistan. As President Obama pointed out, because most of the world's nuclear powers and around half of humanity are in Asia, this region will largely define whether the century ahead will be marked by conflict or cooperation.

This is why he has made a deliberate and strategic decision that “…as a Pacific nation, the United States will play a larger and long-term role in shaping this region and its future, by upholding core principles and in close partnership with allies and friends.” Australia is central to this decision. As the wars of today draw towards a conclusion, the United States intends to redeploy its resources to the Asia region. Australia will be one of the beneficiaries.

I have a vision of even stronger ties with the United States of America following the visit of President Barack Obama and our joint intent to host American military personnel in the Northern Territory for training purposes. This will strengthen the alliance with our long-time partner, and achieve greater security for our nation and our region.

This is what President Obama had to say in our parliament: “…we seek security, which is the foundation of peace and prosperity. We stand for an international order in which the rights and responsibilities of all nations and people are upheld. Where international law and norms are enforced. Where commerce and freedom of navigation are not impeded. Where emerging powers contribute to regional security, and where disagreements are resolved peacefully.” He has also expressed the hope that market forces be allowed to regulate the money market, and that large developing countries float their currencies.

Australia concurs. We know we must strike a sensible balance between facilitating trade within the region and ensuring security for all by containing threats and promoting harmony.

President Obama concluded: “This is the story of the alliance we celebrate today. This is the essence of America's new leadership; it is the essence of our partnership. And this is the work we will carry on together, for the security, the prosperity, and the dignity of all people.”

We concur. We have the same vision. Our alliance with America is rooted in the values and freedoms we share. The solidarity that began with the ANZUS treaty 60 years ago continues stronger than ever. Australia shares his vision of America’s ‘new leadership’ in the Asia region.

Australia must seize the opportunity to transition our economy from that of past years to the economies of the future, the green economy we need to reverse the dire effects of global warming, the economies that create new industries, that manage non-renewable resources better, that use water more efficiently and equitably, that ensures food security, that lifts every child, every family out of poverty and despair wherever it exists.

This is my vision for our nation in the Asian Century – a vision brimming with excitement, bright prospects and challenge as we transition from the ways of the past to the opportunities of the future. This is my 'Light on the Hill' for the Asian Century.

We need your encouragement, your support and your collaboration.

So there it is, a ‘speech’ that would take a little over 15 minutes to deliver.

Is it sufficiently forward-looking? Does it better address journalists’ seemingly unquenchable thirst for a Gillard narrative, one they seem quite unable to discern on their own initiative? I’m not all that hopeful it will. One can only but try!

What do you think?