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The Asian century has the potential to redefine Tasmania’s long-term development trajectory through powerful new avenues for export growth to – and closer integration with – the most rapidly growing part of the global economy.
The rise of Asia offers an unprecedented chance for Tasmania to lift its economic prospects, productivity and workforce participation by increasing the scale of production in areas of strength (such as primary production, education and tourism, and high-quality goods and services) through improved connections to Asian markets. This will be achieved by strengthening Tasmania’s educational base and the capabilities of its workforce; improving Tasmania’s infrastructure; attracting Asian capital, migrants and expertise; supporting centres of research and development (R&D); and by investing in the capabilities that build effective links to growing Asian markets and centres of innovation.
Tasmania faces many challenges in the Asian century. As a state it is less well equipped to engage with Asia than other states in Australia as a result of relatively limited existing economic links and a more homogenous community. Goals of socioeconomic and cultural enrichment will be difficult to achieve without increasing the awareness and recognition by the Tasmanian community of Asia, Asia’s culture and ways of doing business, and the potential opportunities that Asia and the Asian century present. In doing so, it is important to understand and acknowledge that Asia is a region of many countries that comprise diverse historical backgrounds and cultures. Tasmania’s engagement with Asia must reflect this diversity.
Currently, there is insufficient demand in the Tasmanian economy alone for businesses to create enough job opportunities, leading to lower participation rates in the labour market and fewer hours worked per employee than in much of the rest of Australia. The rise of Asia creates an opportunity to improve productivity and lift Tasmanian incomes and growth. Competition will be fierce, and there will be many new competitors in many new sectors, but the opportunities will be bigger. Realising this potential will require significant change – within both federal and state governments at all levels, and within the Tasmanian community as a whole. This change involves shifting the frame of reference in thinking and policy from how Tasmania compares with the rest of Australia to how Tasmania relates to Asia. We cannot rely on the rest of Australia to do all the heavy lifting necessary for us to exploit new social and economic opportunities. The prospects for improving Tasmania’s wellbeing, as well as the risks to it, will be significantly shaped in Asia. The question is not only what Asia’s growth has to offer Tasmania, but also what Tasmania can offer Asia.
The Australian Government’s White Paper on Australia in the Asian Century provides the context for this change.
It highlights that engagement with, and making the most of, the Asian century depends importantly on what is done at home in Australia. That is where the states, territories, communities and individuals are vital in ensuring that Australia is ahead of the curve in responding to the Asian century. An Australian Government Asian Century White Paper implementation strategy is now in place to support government, business and institutional implementation agendas. It recognises that the real drivers for change will come from the wide range of long-term implementation actions that are now being developed and rolled out by government, business, educational and other institutions across the country.
This Tasmanian Government White Paper on Tasmania’s Place in the Asian Century (the Tasmanian White Paper) provides a start to thinking about Tasmania’s future in Asia, and lays out a comprehensive plan for leveraging the federal implementation strategy. The most important role for government will be to catalyse engagement across the community as a whole. Businesses, schools and universities must be encouraged to respond in constructive and effective ways to realise the Asian century opportunity. We are all stakeholders in success. Success will not depend merely on the actions of the Tasmanian Government or policies over which it has immediate control, although there are initiatives that the Government can take in the near term to bring about change. Importantly, success will also be determined by the ways in which the Australian Government is engaged in this transformation and how stakeholders across the Tasmanian community are mobilised to a common purpose over the medium to longer term.
This is an historic opportunity for Tasmania.
The full Tasmania’s Place in the Asian century White paper is available here (PDF, 2.9 MB).
The key goals and policy directions for Tasmania arising from the White Paper can be accessed here.