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Continental Drift: The Case of Australia


ISSUE:  Winter 1997

In 1966 Sir Robert Menzies retired from the Australian Parliament and from the office of prime minister which he had held since 1949. Not long after Menzies stepped down he received a telephone call from the president of the University of Virginia reminding him that three years previously, while at the University delivering the Jefferson Memorial Lecture, he had agreed to a proposal that when he retired he should come and give a series of lectures. Menzies records that he responded warmly and positively within a couple of days. He had greatly enjoyed his earlier brief visit, admiring the architecture and ambience and indeed feeling very much in sympathy with the Jeffersonian project and the way in which it had developed. It was his sort of place—full of a sense of history and of Anglo-American tradition and offering the companionship of intellectual peers and people with whom he could enjoy good talk.

Menzies stayed through late fall and winter and delivered seven lectures under the collective title “The Growth of the Commonwealth Power in the Australian Federation” which were afterward published in one volume. Nearly 20 years later on a visit to the university I was told that this immensely distinguished Australian was remembered not only for his intellectual contribution but also because he had brought with him for his visit a large quantity of very good Australian wine. When the time of his departure arrived, there was still enough left for him to distribute personally as he made his farewells around the campus carrying a basket of his country’s most cherished products.

Intellectually and emotionally Menzies was deeply attached to his and his country’s British inheritance, shared to an important extent with the United States. His life and thought revolved around the common law, and the Westminster parliamentary institutions and traditions, and he was a deeply committed monarchist. Moreover he was a strong protagonist of those institutions and traditions. He spoke publicly and often in praise of them and he did all he could to preserve and reinforce them in the life of Australia. The foreign policy of Australia under his governments reflected that.

Australia recently completed 13 years of government by the Australian Labor Party (ALP), Menzies’ old opponents. For nine of those years Labor was led by Bob Hawke as prime minister. He was replaced at the second attempt after a bitter campaign by Paul Keating. During those 13 years, but especially for the last four while Keating was prime minister, the political floor was largely held by people for whom the Menzies legacy was one to be rejected, rejected even with contumely. The British connection was and is regarded in the Australian Labor movement with ambivalence especially by those of its leaders and members who represent the strong Irish and Catholic influence in the party. These feelings have extensive political and economic roots in Australian history, experience, and mythology as well as drawing on inherited resentments from the other side of the world. During the Keating years they gave additional bite to the republican movement, to demands for a new national flag, and so on. Many people who believe it is quite anomalous and anachronistic for Australia to have the British monarch as head of state and the British flag in the top corner of the Australian flag see those who defend the status quo as blinkered Anglophiles who have not responded to the changes in the world and Australia’s circumstances since Menzies retired, or indeed even earlier than that. In the meantime the British have been very sensibly taking the position that these are matters entirely for the Australians whose decisions will be respected by the British however they turn out.

Between 1993, when he won a general election against all odds, and Labor’s defeat on March 2,1996, Keating pressed hard to lay the basis for Australia to become a republic in time for the new century which will see the Olympic Games 2000 held in the city of Sydney. While most Australians probably share Keating’s view that it would be inappropriate to have the Games opened by “a foreign monarch,” the urgency has gone out of the republican issue with Keating’s departure from office. It has become clear that there are complex and difficult issues which will have to be worked out and agreed and that it is not just a matter of replacing the queen with an Australian as head of state. One major issue is the method of selection of the president of an Australian republic. Keating’s proposal that this be by the members of the two chambers of the Australian Parliament runs counter to what polling suggests is a strong preference in the Australian electorate for a popularly elected president. There seems to be clear evidence that at this stage people do not want the president to be selected by the politicians in Canberra. But a popularly-elected president would affect the balance of the Australian constitutional arrangements since the office of president would be given an authority derived from direct election by a majority of all Australians which could be seen as higher than that of the prime minister and government ministers who are selected by the party or parties forming a majority in the parliament and then formally appointed by the head of state.

So the monarchy, to which Menzies was so deeply attached, survives in Australia and might continue well into the 21st century despite the widespread feeling in Australia that it is inevitable that Australia become a republic in due course. For the moment it is in the “too hard” basket.

Keating linked the issue of the republic to a broader matter of much greater substantive importance which engaged much of his attention and to which he made a major contribution. This is the argument about Australia’s place in the world, especially in relation to the Asia Pacific region. Keating said that having the British queen as Australia’s head of state and the British flag on the Australian flag were real impediments to Australia’s acceptance as a committed member of the Asia Pacific region. He claimed that our Asian neighbors see us as less than fully independent as long as these relics of the imperial past remain so prominently in the institutions and symbols of our nationhood.

Particularly during the Keating years there was a tendency to claim that the Labor Party was almost solely responsible for recognizing that Australia’s future lies in engaging closely with East Asia and for developing relevant policies. The Liberal Party (which Menzies had founded) and its coalition partner the National Party were said to be stuck in a past where they looked to Britain and America and failed to recognize that it was Asia that matters most for Australia. In fact, Keating personally was responsible for driving Australia’s “enmeshment” (a word used by his predecessor Bob Hawke as well as by Keating) with Asia harder and faster than would have been the case under any other leader. But the version of the development of Australia’s foreign policy which he and his Foreign Minister Gareth Evans promoted was tendentious. It gave no credit to Menzies and little or none to his foreign ministers, especially Casey and Spender, who took major steps to focus Australia on Asia and prepare the country for a future in which its relations with Asia would be crucial. Instead Labor often gave all credit as precursor to Menzies’ Labor opponent H.V. Evatt who as foreign minister in the immediate post-W.W. II period backed the Indonesian independence struggle and was president of the General Assembly of the United Nations.

The resentment occasioned by this on the Liberal side (and not only among the party faithful) was exacerbated by Keating’s claims during the election campaign at the beginning of last year that the Liberal leader John Howard (now prime minister) and Alexander Downer (now foreign minister) had little interest in Asia and no credentials and would not be taken seriously in the region. Keating tried to convince Australians that all his government’s work in developing ties with Asia would be undone if Howard and Downer were voted into office. As a political tactic this was quite ineffective and it opened Keating to the rejoinder that he himself had only discovered Asia quite recently—indeed around the time he became prime minister.

II

Now that the party of Menzies, the Liberals, and their coalition partners are back in power, they have made it clear that they will present a different interpretation of the historical record, giving more prominence to the Asia-directed elements of the foreign policy of the Menzies era and subsequent Liberal coalition governments. That is necessary and proper; but of course it will be the policies and practices of the Howard Government in office rather than what happened under Menzies or his Liberal Party successors that will determine whether Australia’s neighbors think the country continues under Howard to be as committed to integration with the region as it seemed to be under Keating. Prime Minister Howard, Deputy Prime Minister Fischer, Foreign Minister Downer and other members of the government have said publicly both in Australia and overseas that East Asia will be the top priority in this government’s foreign policy as it was in the Keating government’s. That will be made clear no doubt in the white paper on foreign policy which the government has in preparation.

On the other hand, elements of the Menzies Anglo-American focus remain and there will not be the sense of revolutionary change which Keating generated with his Asia policy. Howard, for example, would like Australia to retain the monarchy. The Howard government has also made it clear that it will not allow a focus on Asia to detract from preserving and strengthening the alliance relationship with the United States. There is also a difference of policy priority and of style. In the first place, John Howard’s top priorities, certainly in his first term, will have to be domestic ones. He is much more committed to reform and restructuring in Australia than was Keating, and there is indeed much that needs to be done. The country has a chronic current account deficit exacerbated by the series of budget deficits in the later years of Labor government, the savings rate is the lowest in the OECD, welfare and other transfer payments have not been sufficiently targeted to those who genuinely need them; industrial relations, transportation, especially shipping, all need major reform, and there is stubbornly high unemployment. The government’s first budget last August underscored these as the issues which absorb most energy and time.

It is in this area of domestic economic and social policy that Howard and his government see the greatest need for major reform and change—whereas Keating saw the main task as being to bring about a big change in Australia’s national self-image and simultaneously to orient the country toward Asia. The emphasis on national symbolism and expression and the drive to sever the links with the British monarchy and establish a republic were related to the Asia policy. They would help Australians have the self-confidence to drive their independent way in the region without any constraints imposed by relations with what Menzies had called “great and powerful friends,” and they would signal to our neighbors and beyond that Australia was indeed making its own decisions and was determined to forge its future in the closest possible association with East Asia.

There is a sense in which the foreign policy of Keating and of Evans his foreign minister (although at times they appeared to have rather different foreign policies) seemed to overlook the fact that, in the longer run, Australia’s place in the Asia Pacific region and in the wider world would be determined at least as much by the country’s economic and social development as by dramatic foreign policy initiatives. Early in his time as foreign minister Evans often made the point in speeches and discussion that Australia’s GNP was larger than that of all the members of ASEAN combined. With the very rapid economic growth of these countries and Australia’s relatively modest performance, this soon had to be amended to “equal to” instead of “larger than” and then to the assertion that the GNP of Australia and New Zealand combined was equal to that of ASEAN. There was no disposition to suggest that Australia’s rather rapid slide down the world league tables for GNP and share of international trade, for example, were reasons for concern and for a far greater focus on growth, development, and competitiveness in Australia itself. With the Howard Government, there is an impression of a return of attention to the fundamental determinants of Australia’s viability.

In fact, the two things cannot be separated, as no doubt both Keating and Howard are aware. One of the main reasons for Australia’s determination in recent years to “enmesh” itself with East Asia (both north and south) has been that that is where the economic growth is and that is where Australia’s export markets lie. When Britain joined the European Common Market, Australia was forced to look elsewhere for markets, and it was Japan which rapidly became the country’s largest trading partner. Korea, Taiwan, China, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia have all become major markets for Australia in both merchandise and services trade. It is in this part of the world that Australia sees its growth markets and its economic opportunities. The American market remains restricted for most of Australia’s most competitive exports with the result that we have a huge trade deficit with America—far larger in percentage terms than the U.S. deficits with Japan and China.

There is now considerable and growing awareness in Australia that we must be competitive to survive and prosper in that dynamic part of the world which runs from Indonesia up to China and is producing economic growth at rates and on a scale which the world has never before seen.

At the same time there is awareness, fostered and stimulated by the Labor governments from 1983 to 1996, that Australia must equip itself in many respects to make its way in Asia in the 21st century. This has been reflected in the education system, in business, in finance, in immigration policy, in policy affecting foreign investment, and notably in the media. But in terms of profile and the creation of an awareness of a new course both within Australia and in the region nothing has been as striking as the series of public addresses and meetings with foreign leaders which was undertaken by Paul Keating as prime minister. He and his ministers made it clear in their public statements, in their travels, and in all their official activities that they were dedicated to integrating Australia with East Asia. They cultivated the relationship with Japan with the objective of broadening it from trade and investment into a more broadly-based cooperation between the two nations, and that has to a large degree been achieved. They paid much attention to China and indeed acted as advocate for China in Washington on the MFN issue. They saw the rapid rise of South Korea and the political change there as opportunities for Australia to forge a closer and mutually advantageous relationship with that country which has become a vital trading partner. Keating personally and the members of his government, especially the foreign and trade ministers, made every effort to explain their policies and to develop consultation with Australia’s neighbors in Southeast Asia and the ASEAN-sponsored conferences and meetings became the most important conferences in the Australian foreign policy agenda. Among these countries only with Malaysia did they have difficulties.

In the Keating government’s efforts to focus Australia on the Asia-Pacific region the most striking element was the central role of Indonesia. Keating himself visited Indonesia frequently to confer with President Soeharto and between them they made the Bogor meeting of the leaders of APEC a major step forward in the development of Pacific Basin trade and economic cooperation. The Australia-Indonesia consultation was also important in the development of an ASEAN-based embryonic regional security forum, the ASEAN Regional Forum, which faces a variety of uncertainties but at least provides a framework, notably including China, for discussing steps towards greater transparency and consultation of security-related issues in the East Asia region. But the culmination of the Keating diplomacy with Indonesia and its 73-year-old president was the unveiling and signing in December 1995 of a secretly negotiated bilateral security agreement between the two countries.

For Australia, indeed for both countries, this was a landmark development. The actual terms of the treaty can be read as committing the two parties either to much or to little, and in that sense the treaty presents a small target to potential critics in either country or elsewhere in the region. Indeed, there has been surprisingly little criticism, and in Australia the treaty was received with apparent equanimity by public opinion. It was accorded bipartisan support and the Howard coalition government confirmed its commitment to the treaty after it came to office in March 1996. For at least 25 years Australia has been seeking to develop links between the defense forces of the two countries. There have been advances and setbacks in the process. During the long ascendancy of General L.B. Moerdani on the Indonesian side, cooperation was impeded after the Indonesian invasion of East Timor, despite the subsequent Australian recognition of Indonesian sovereignty over that territory. In more recent years the framework has become more favorable, partly as a result of changes in Australian defense doctrine which argued that our policy should be configured not against but with Southeast Asia (especially Indonesia) and even before the conclusion of the treaty at the end of 1995 Australia had become the principal partner of Indonesia in training and exercising of its defense forces. The Australian defense leadership has persisted for many years and despite setbacks in seeking professional and where possible fraternal contacts with the Indonesian defense leadership and services. But it was still a surprise when Keating announced that a formal security treaty had been negotiated and was about to be signed. Indonesia’s history as a leader of the Non-Aligned Movement, Australia’s long-standing and close treaty-based security links with the United States, and recollection of rocky passages in the relationship not so long ago made observers unprepared for this formal step. But for Australia it was the most dramatic and important manifestation of the Keating policy of committing the country to Southeast Asia. It was the clearest sign that he was casting Australia’s lot with that of Indonesia and Southeast Asia. It was, in that sense, a turning point in Australia’s history.

Especially in the aftermath of their first budget there is a strong sense that the Howard government is committed to getting the basic economic and social policy settings right again so that the country’s future viability and competitiveness can be assured into the future. They represent in some ways a back-to-basics approach. But the basics include, especially post-Keating, a closer engagement with East Asia which is irreversible in its essentials. It was inevitable and is irreversible because it is a consequence of Australia’s location, of the attenuation of old linkages, of the development of Australia’s neighbors as the new powerhouse of the world’s economy, and the expectation that the growing economic strength of these countries will translate into greater political and strategic power, regionally and in due course globally as well.

1 The Association of Southeast Asian Nations comprising Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand which has a combined population of some 330 million as compared to Australia’s 18 million.

2 The Asia Pacific Economic Consultation, a loosely structured grouping initiated by Australia (with considerable related preliminary work by the Japanese Trade and Industry Ministry) which embraces the East Asian countries and Australia as well as the NAFTA members (United States, Canada and Mexico), New Zealand and Chile.

III

At the beginning of 1996, it seemed Australians had accepted that their future lies with Asia, partly because there is no apparent economic alternative, but also in many cases because it has opened new horizons for them in career terms, in terms of education, cultural interests, and so on. The shifting of focus to East Asia has had a culturally stimulating effect on some institutions and individuals.

It is in export-oriented business and in the universities that the shift is most visible. Beyond that, the effects were more opaque until recently when a sort of reaction seems to have emerged. For middle Australia it was until recently not clear whether the implications had impinged much on lives taken up with shorter term familiar problems and interests. In terms of popular culture the American influence far outweighs any other and continues to grow (but so it does in most of Asia too). But since the change of government, there has been a sudden upsurge of anti-Asian sentiment in parts of the Australian community. There is significant evidence that large numbers are opposed to the present level of Asian immigration, for example. There seems to have been a release of prejudices and resentments which had been suppressed by the focussed surge of the previous phase of enmeshment with Asia. Perhaps it is not surprising that there should now have been a populist backlash against changes which coincide with high levels of unemployment and a sense that life has become much more insecure for most people as public sector welfare and support services are curtailed, corporations shed labor on a large scale and in the middle Australia of mainly Anglo-celtic origin, there is unease that the country is being moved away from what they would see as its roots. This induces more caution on the part of government and both domestically and in the neighboring countries, there is some questioning whether the focus on integration with East Asia will be maintained.

These developments are not directly linked with the government’s stated desire to reinvigorate the relationship with the United States, and indeed the government has made it clear that paying more attention to the United States involves no reduction in the focus on Asia. At the recent Australia/United States Ministerial talks held in Sydney and attended by the secretaries of state and defense, the chairman of the chiefs of staff, CINCPAC, the assistant secretary of state for Asia and the Pacific and others, Australia was described as the “southern anchor” of the United States and allied strategic position in the Asia-Pacific region. That is a dusting off of terminology from Cold War days when Japan was said to be the “northern anchor” and Australia the “southern anchor” of the Free World position in the region. If the description has an anachronistic ring to it now, it is partly because Australia has been relocated in conceptual and policy terms, underpinned by economic necessity, so that it sees itself as an integral part of the region. That seems inconsistent with the image of an Australia which is there as an anchor for more distant friends and interests.

In fact it is doubtful whether Australia has come to anchor yet in the collective consciousness of its people. It is still experiencing continental drift—in physical terms at a rate of some two centimeters a year toward Asia, in nearly every other sense at a vastly faster rate. What has changed, and as far as one can see changed almost totally, is the attitude of Australians to that process and that prospect. For virtually the whole of the first half of the 20th century Australians lived in fear of Asia. That changed at first gradually and then with a surge in the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. For some years now the Asian component has been the largest one in immigration into Australia. Asian Australians are becoming more and more prominent in all aspects of Australian life. Tourists from Asia, especially Japan, outnumber others. The universities are full of Asian students—and so on. So far this seems to have proceeded smoothly and with probably less abrasiveness than was experienced by some earlier immigrant groups. That may be partly to do with the modest pace of immigration and if massive numbers flowed in the public attitude would likely be different. But one hopes that it also has something to do with the growing awareness that, despite our British-derived institutions and our American alliance, we have shifted (or perhaps returned) to a new position off-shore of Asia which imposes new requirements and adjustments on us.

For some years there was a debate, which at times seemed rather sterile, on the issue of whether Australia is a part of Asia. For some members of the Labor government and their acolytes it became almost a test of political correctness whether one would assent to their assertion that Australia was a part of Asia. To others, including the present writer, it seemed factually wrong, contrary to the national feeling, and politically servile to make that assertion. There is in fact a rather sharp dividing line (the Wallace Line) between Asia and Australia on one side of which the flora and fauna are Asian and on the other side of which there are quite different Australian forms of vegetation and animal life (including insects). Facts of this sort tended to be dismissed as pedantry. Then Foreign Minister Gareth Evans for a while sought to establish this new orthodoxy and his friend and chief official, the late Peter Wilenski, was especially strident in asserting that Australia was a part of Asia. The opposing view was strongly discouraged. Paul Keating put an end to this, at least by the government, with a powerful lecture at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies at the beginning of 1996. Australia, he said, was not and could not become a part of Asia. Australia could not be Asian any more than it is European or American or African. It is Australia, a unique country with a diverse multicultural society, occupying a continent. In that speech Keating went on to explain that he saw regionalism as the key to meeting the challenges of the new era and Australia would be an integral participant in the region around it.

The weaker part of Keating’s Singapore speech sought to argue that the differences between Australia and its neighbors were smaller than they seemed. This was a theme which Foreign Minister Evans took much further, arguing at length and in detail that apparent cultural, political, and other differences between countries in the region, and especially between Australia and other countries in the region, were diminishing rapidly and would in due course be insignificant—if they were not so already.

One of the most powerful influences on foreign policy thinking in Australia from the early days of the Labor government (1983) was the belief that economic development and growth would lead to greater openness and political liberalization in East Asia. It was argued that, as the Southeast Asian countries in particular followed the export-driven market economy path of development, they would be opened increasingly to foreign influences, they would have rapidly growing middle classes which would demand more political participation, and they would in consequence move away from the prevailing authoritarian patterns of government toward more liberal and democratic forms. In other words they would become more like the West (and Australia) and so easier to live with. This argument was and continues to be strongly contested by the political elites in the countries concerned. We have had the “Asian Values” argument pressed strongly by Singaporeans especially but also Malaysians and Japanese. While not convincing as an historical account or an account of current arrangements and circumstances, it seems clear that in most if not all countries of the region there is a sense that Western values and the current practices and circumstances in the United States, or for that matter Australia, are repugnant to the values and social preferences of people in all these countries. At the same time Western scholars have come increasingly to question the argument that economic development necessarily leads to democratization. Certainly if we look now at the Southeast Asian countries, it is plausible to suggest that some of them at least will retain more authoritarian forms of government quite far into the future, at least. That seems likely to be true for Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia, the Southeast Asian countries closest to Australia.

The disposition in Australia to argue that we were moving through an era of rapid economic development to a time when the countries of the region would be relatively prosperous, market-driven democracies seems to be diminishing. It was a comfortable and comforting argument at a time when government was seeking to convince Australians that history was making it inevitable that they “enmesh” with East Asia. Comforting because it said in effect that those countries which might in the past have seemed exotic and threatening were in fact becoming much more like us. In that sense the region is likely to be less comfortable than Keating and Evans tried to make it sound. Perhaps no other country in it will be like Australia in the sense of being a liberal democracy where individual rights are valued above almost all else, or in the sense of demanding public rather than family welfare and support for example in health care and higher education. There are some calls in Australia for us to shift towards more “Asian” models (which sound like the Australia of the late 19th century) where there is more respect for family duty and mutual support, more discipline and less individual freedom, greater readiness to work hard in a team context, and so on. But there is little sign that any of this exercises a compelling attractiveness to Australians.

Australians are unlikely to be convinced by implausible arguments that they are little different from countries to their north and west. They are, however, attracted to the argument that as trade, information, and people flow with increasing frequency and intensity between our respective countries we will better understand each other and be better able to deal comfortably with each other. These are natural and sensible human dispositions which continue to assert themselves however often they are disappointed by historical experience.

As things now stand, the likelihood is that Australia will continue to be probably more different from all the countries of East Asia than they are from each other. But Australia seems to be showing a capacity to adapt to that situation. It now seems to be much more widely accepted in Australia that our influence on the other countries of the region will continue to diminish and that we will have to adapt to them in certain important respects. Thus already one notices a more circumspect tone in our media when reporting on and analyzing developments in other countries of the region.

By the end of his time in office Paul Keating had defined a place for Australia which reflected both Australian national sentiment and Australia’s commitment to integration with the region around it. The realization of that will be the continuing task of his present successors who bring to it some different emphases and considerations. There will be a more circumspect and even respectful approach to the issue of the monarchy and other links with Britain, and probably more emphasis on Australia’s European heritage and continuing links with Europe. Priority will be given, indeed is being given, to reinvigorating the alliance with the United States. Australia will possibly be somewhat less busy in regional affairs than it was while Keating and Evans were in office.

Howard and Downer have said that turning to Asia does not mean turning our back on the United States and our other connections. Keating did not turn his back on the United States either, although he probably deliberately gave the impression that it came well behind East Asia in his attention. And he certainly gave the impression that he did not have much interest in or time for the British connection, making it clear on a visit to both countries that he felt much more at home in Ireland than in England. In the context of his concern to develop and emphasize Australia’s separate and self-defining nation-hood and to speed up Australia’s continental drift toward East Asia all this seemed to fit. But the disposition of the Howard government seems to be to concentrate for a while on consolidation, including consolidation of other sustaining linkages and traditions. If that is so, and if Australia moves a little more conservatively at least for a while, it will still be in the context of an accepted and inexorable shift toward East Asia.

That shift will be facilitated in fact if Australia can be given a more dynamic economic thrust with labor market and other reforms while preserving or enhancing the national consensus. Labor had its own conservative ballast on the left. Attitudes forged in old struggles in British places like Liverpool. Glasgow, and Newcastle have no relevance to preparing Australia to compete and survive in the East Asia of the 21st century. The new government is better placed to link economic development and change with the geopolitical imperatives.

But the years ahead will not be easy. Australia will continue to be of relatively diminishing size in the region both in terms of population and GNP. Its technological lead over its neighbors which has been of considerable importance especially in the defence context, will continue to shrink. The alliance with the United States which provides access to advanced defence technology and superior intelligence on the surrounding region will in that sense be ever more valuable. Australia will want to develop its defence links with its neighbors on the basis of the doctrine of defence with rather than against them. But that will have to be reconciled with the ultimate responsibility to keep the capacity to defend Australia against any local threats as well as any from afar or on a regional scale. There is potential for volatility in the immediate region and no certainty that the course of economic development there will produce long-term political stability and cooperation.

Australia must keep its clear objective of showing itself a committed and acceptable friend and neighbor while being clear-eyed about what that requires in terms of national interest and national change. The demands of regional diplomacy and of national reform are in fact mutually supporting; but it will not be easy to make that clear to an Australian population which has not yet been well prepared for a future that requires anchoring in solid national achievement and strength in a region of the world bursting with dynamic economic growth and full of diversity. The very idea of Asia was invented by Europeans and is a rather artificial concept. Australians need not worry that they do not fit the description. Over time they will become increasingly accepted as part of the mix, and they will increasingly see themselves in that way. But they will always be a distinctive element in this part of the world with a national character that has developed its strong individuality and which indeed fairly rapidly affects those who join it, including those of various Asian origins and backgrounds who move to Australia. Australia needs to continue its successful regional diplomacy but its most urgent task is to make the changes necessary to take full advantage of the economic dynamism which surrounds it. There are encouraging signs that this is being recognized.

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