CRAIG EMERSON: The Asian Century brings with it unsurpassed opportunities for Australians to enjoy an increase in national income and, very importantly for young people, to face the prospect of a splendid diversity of career opportunities. As the Gillard Government diversifies the Australian economy, where we still have the foundation of minerals and energy exports, but where we increasingly trade and invest in services that already constitute 80 per cent of the employment of Australians, and also into agriculture where we have an opportunity to make agriculture new economy again.
A lift in the prospects of our country towns and regional centres as we supply 3 billion middle-class customers with the high-protein, premium, quality foods that Australia are so good at supplying.
So, here is a road map, through the Asian Century White Paper, so that we can seize those opportunities. The Asian Century is not a threat to Australia; it is an opportunity. And we are literally putting Australia in the right place at the right time, in the Asian region in the Asian Century. The White Paper is a road map for all Australians. Of course, the Government will lead it, and we will continue our policy development within this framework of the Asian Century. But this is truly a once-in-a-generation opportunity – so let's seize it.
QUESTION: So, the Chamber of Commerce says that, you know … is broadly welcoming the report, but says most of it states the bleeding obvious. When is the Government going to commit some funding to this report?
EMERSON: Well, there is funding in the report, and there is funding in the single largest source of future productivity growth: and that is our education system. We've already announced that we're going to proceed to implement recommendations arising out of the Gonski Review, and that will involve substantial extra funds. It will ensure that as we implement those reforms that there are Asia literacy capabilities so that we ensure that our young people have access to the four priority languages.
But it's not as if there's no money in these education reforms. And, in fact, if anything there's been some criticism from the Opposition that Australia, as a rich country, can't afford these reforms. We believe these education reforms are not a cost but an investment in the future of the Australian young people in particular.
QUESTION: Just on the languages: I mean, when is the school curriculum going to change to say that, you know, we recommend that kids take up Hindi, for example.?
EMERSON: Well, the national school curriculum starts in 2013. And we are going to embed in that – and it's already well underway – that commitment to ensuring that we have the best Asia capability amongst our young people. There have been various programs in the past that have sought, nobly, to increase the language capability of young people. They've tended to be bolted onto the existing education system. What we're seeking to do is embed them in the education system, through the curriculum and through the technologies that are available in the 21st Century, to ensure that all young people have access to these languages.
QUESTION: Do you support Anthony Albanese's plans to challenge Penny Wong's number two spot on the South Australian Senate ticket?
EMERSON: Look, I think these internal party matters. I'm here really to talk about the splendid opportunities that are available in the Asian Century. This is an enormously important road map, and everyone's entitled to their view. But I think that I'll continue to focus on the opportunities that are available in the Asian Century.
QUESTION: Doesn't it show that there are internal divisions within the party?
EMERSON: Well, of course there are always matters that are debated within political parties. But what's important is the future of what we're doing here in Australia. This is a wonderful opportunity for all Australians, and we're saying 'let's have a national conversation'. We've started it; let's have other people join in that conversation. Because it's not just about government; it's about the business community, it's about the academic community, it's even about the mums and dads as they look at the prospects for their young people.
I mean, just consider for young people. It's not just kids who go to university, but kids who get involved in computer artwork, graphic design – they'll have a splendid future in the Asian Century, and that's what I'm concentrating on.
QUESTION: Craig, today's Newspoll would suggest that Labor's upward trend is continuing. But the Opposition says that that what's reflected in today's polls isn't reflected on the ground. What do you make of those remarks?
EMERSON: Well, the Prime Minister's had the kitchen sink, the bathroom vanity and the carport thrown at her and she's still standing, delivering on the policies to make Australia strong, to have a strong economy, and to ensure that everyone gets a fair share of the benefits of that strength. What the Prime Minister has demonstrated time and time again is that we don't govern for opinion polls, we govern for Australia.
Thanks very much.
- Minister's Office: (02) 6277 4330
- DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555