At long last, the Gillard government has unveiled its white paper, Australia in the Asian Century. The paper lists 25 objectives for Australia to achieve by 2025 in the context of increased engagement with our growing Asian neighbours. While the complexity of the document and its implications will be poured over for weeks, if not months, this morning some business commentators have offered their initial impressions on this crucial government document, as well as its political backstory and its economic implications.
Fairfax’s Daniel Flitton makes the astute observation that the very same day that the government unveils the white paper Australia in an Asian Century, a terrorist plot near our embassy in Jakarta and another boat of asylum seekers has arrived.
"When Australian's look north, the threats have traditionally loomed much larger than the opportunities. This white paper is a brave attempt to escape that mindset, long on ambition and with hopeful goals. Think of it as an attempt to shock Australia out of complacency.”
The Australian’s Andrew Burrell reports that some mining industry leaders are arguing that the white paper fails to address some of the most crucial issues that Australia needs to deal with when it comes to engagement with Asia; particularly, our stance on investment from state-owned enterprises in China.
"A former Fortescue Metals Group executive and former head of the Confucius Institute, Philip Kirchlechner, said although the white paper had acknowledged the importance of the industry, it had failed to address the negative public sentiment surrounding investment from Chinese state-owned companies. The document reasserts the federal government's policy that investments by state-owned enterprises will be screened regardless of value.
The Australian’s Glenda Korporaal reports that the thrust of the white paper should absolutely be applauded:
"But after so much build-up to the second Henry report, there is a slight air of disappointment about the lack of specific programs for action. Exactly where is the beef? What are the steps we need to take to achieve our goal of boosting trade with Asia from 25 to 33 per cent of GDP by 2025? There are lots of important graphs and tables making the case about the future rise of Asia. But much of the report restates measures the government already has in place. Strip away the things we already know and there is only a small range of initiatives in the report, some of them more aspirational goals than action plans.
The Australian’s Richard Gluyas passes on the belief of the Financial Services Council that the government "urgently” move on the Johnson report that seeks to promote Australia as a financial hub because it’s in step with the goals of the white paper.
In other news, Fairfax’s Michael West tells the seemingly unbelievable story of a liquidator spending $500,000 chasing down a $28,000 debt for an Adelaide business that went bust. He also has a killer way of describing it.
"Welcome to the Dead Zone, the land of liquidations, administrations and receiverships, where bounty-hunters roam the apocalyptic landscape preying on the dying and the wounded.”
Meanwhile, Fairfax’s Ross Gittins has a crack at commentators arguing that the government is trying to get the budget back into surplus for purely political reasons.
The Australian’s economics editor David Uren says the Reserve Bank might be concerned about the economic forecasts of the Treasury, but it’s under no pressure to cut rates on Melbourne Cup day.
The Australian’s Paul Garvey says Fortescue Metals Group’s annual general meeting and site visit in the Pilbara would have gone down a treat, but investors could still be a little perturbed about the apparent application to secure some royalty relief from the Western Australian government.
And finally, The Australian’s Barry Fitzgerald says the mining tax has turned out to be "much ado about nothing”…quite.