The Federal Government has now released its Implementation Plan as a follow-up to the release of the “Australia in the Asian Century” White Paper in October 2012

At the time of the release of the White Paper in October 2012, the Federal Government was praised for starting the conversation about Australia’s interaction with Asia and setting targets for the country to achieve by 2025. However, there was widespread criticism that the White Paper lacked detail of how the 25 national objectives of the White Paper would be implemented and the financial support for the implementation.

The release of the Implementation Plan was timed to coincide with the Prime Ministers’ trip to China with some of her senior ministers and the accompanying delegation by senior Australian business leaders to the Bo’ao Forum and other significant meetings and dialogues with Chinese business leaders and government.

The Implementation Plan summarises the progress that has been made to date against the White Paper objectives and sets out the implementation arrangements and governance structures for the Federal Government to work with various stakeholders including State, Territory and local governments, businesses, educational institutions, unions, academics and community groups to achieve them.

What’s our view?

The Federal Government has continued the development of its thinking around Australia’s engagement with Asia and has taken a number of significant and positive steps to ensure that there will be a coordinated approach across the various stakeholders and continued engagement of the public on Asian Century issues. One important outcome of the White Paper has been the take-up by State and Territory Governments on their policy initiatives around engagement with Asia. However, apart from the governance arrangements, there is little detail about major policy initiatives and the timing of their implementation.

The governance arrangements for the implementation of the White Paper include:

  • Establishing the Australia in the Asian Century Committee of Cabinet;
  • Appointing the Honorable Dr Craig Emerson as the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Asian Century Policy;
  • Establishing the Strategic Advisory Board to provide advice to the Prime Minister and the Minister Assisting the Prime Minister on Asian Century Policy on the implementation of the White Paper. The Strategic Advisory Board will be chaired by the CEO of Leightons, Hamish Tyrwhitt;
  • Establishing the Deputy Secretaries Steering Committee to provide direction and guidance across all Australian Government agencies on the implementation of White Paper outcomes; and
  • Establishing the Australia in the Asian Century Implementation Taskforce, based in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to support the implementation of the White Paper across Government.

The Federal Government also intends to use established networks and committees including the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) and economic, university, business and topic specific forums to encourage collaboration and encourage further dialogue. At the December 2012 meeting of COAG, the Federal, State and Territory Governments agreed to use COAG processes and structures to work towards the national objectives in the White Paper. Of particular interest to business, the Implementation Plan sets out detailed steps for engagement with business and the broader community. These steps include:

  • Holding stakeholder forums for priority areas in 2013;
  • Establishing the Business Advisory Forum (BAF) to bring business leaders, representatives of Australia’s peak business organisations and COAG members to exchange information, perspectives and knowledge on how to lower costs for business and improve productivity;
  • Establishing the National Panel for Economic Reform (NPER) to bring together Government, business, union and community leaders to develop, agree and champion reforms to drive long term productivity growth to met the White Paper target that Australia’s GDP will be in the world’s top 10 by 2025; and
  • Establishing the Business 20 (B20) to generate policy recommendations for G20 leaders.

The next step for the Federal Government is to identify specific implementatoin actions with budgets and timing for each year until 2025 and link these actions to the Asian narrative. A positive announcement in this direction was made by the Foreign Minister, the Honorable Bob Carr announcing public consultations on country strategies for Japan, China, Indonesia, India and South Korea. The purpose of the country strategies is to strengthen relations with key regional partners by outlining a vision of those relationships by 2025. In developing the country strategies, responses are being sought by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) on the following questions:

  • What are your priorities and objectives in these countries?
  • What opportunities are there to deepen our engagement across the board, including through people-to-people, economic and political/strategic links?
  • How is the pace and shape of political, economic and social change in these countries affecting your engagement?
  • How can we support stronger social and cultural links with these countries, for example through networks of Australians living in these countries or through communities in Australia?
  • What more can Australia do to connect productively in trade and investment, innovation, research and development?
  • Are there lessons Australia can learn from our past experience in developing relations with these countries?
  • What are the key barriers, challenges and risks in progressing our relations with these countries?
  • How can we assess the effectiveness of Australia’s efforts to deepen and strengthen relations with these countries?

The deadline for submissions is 31 May 2013.