Leading Across Cultures: Challenges for Australia in the Asian Century (Chancellor’s Lecture series)


Swinburne University of Technology. Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, alumni, colleagues
and friends of Swinburne. My name’s Michael Grigoletto
and I’m from Alumni and Development and it’s my great pleasure
to welcome you all here this evening for tonight’s Chancellor’s Lecture. I’d like to begin by respectfully
acknowledging the traditional owners, the people of the Kulin Nation,
as the custodians of this land. We also pay respects to all Aboriginal
community elders, past and present, who have resided in the area
and have been an integral part of the history of this region. It’s a pleasure to see so many of you
in attendance this evening for a very special Chancellor’s Lecture. Before we get started,
a few housekeeping matters. Can I remind you all just to have
your phones either switched off or at least set to silent. We will also be having
a lucky door prize, a business card draw
at the end of the lecture, so hopefully you’ve all had a chance
to drop your card into the fish bowl. Tonight’s lecture will be recorded
for podcasting, including the questions. So when you put your hand up
to ask a question, just take a moment
and we will give you the mic to make sure that both the question
and the answer are recorded. Tonight’s speaker, Professor Ken Chern, is the executive director of
the Swinburne Leadership Institute. And I’d just like to take a moment
to set some context around the Swinburne
Leadership Institute. A couple of years ago, a Swinburne
alumnus and very generous benefactor, a Mr Steve Graham,
shared a vision with Swinburne to create a centre of learning,
research and advocacy to foster the kind of leadership equal to the challenges
facing today’s society. The leadership and vision shown by Steve and our vice chancellor,
Linda Kristjanson, has led to the creation of
the Swinburne Leadership Institute, an endeavour for which we hold
great aspirations. The Swinburne Leadership Institute enjoys the support and guidance
of an advisory board, the external members of which
are alumni of Swinburne. And I’d like to thank these members
and Mr Steve Graham, Mr Graham Goldsmith, Mr Richard Simpson
and Mr Paul Choiselat who are joining us here tonight. Their tireless efforts and generosity have been instrumental
in establishing this endeavour. It’s now my great pleasure
to introduce you to our vice chancellor, Professor Linda Kristjanson. (APPLAUSE) Thank you very much, Michael. Chancellor, distinguished guests,
one and all, good evening. Let me begin by offering you
a very, very warm welcome tonight to our alumni, to our colleagues,
our friends of Swinburne. It’s very special that you’re with us and giving time to be with us
at this very important event. This is the first Chancellor’s Lecture
for 2012 and like other Chancellor’s Lectures, I’m sure you will find this
a very exceptional occasion. Professor Ken Chern, who is a professor
of Asian Policy at Swinburne and the executive director
of the Swinburne Leadership Institute, will deliver tonight’s lecture. Ken will give us an insight
into how he thinks leadership in Australia needs to be
tackled in the Asian Century and how we need to position ourselves
with our neighbours if we are to grow
and be a key player in the region. Some of those leadership qualities
that Ken will touch on, such as integrity, courage, balance,
innovation and communication, are values associated with Swinburne. These are values
that the Swinburne Leadership Institute is seeking to encourage and instil
in the leaders of tomorrow. The Swinburne Leadership Institute
is an initiative that has been inspired, as you’ve heard,
by our alumnus Steve Graham, and I’m delighted that Steve and
Margaret Graham can be with us tonight and we’re very honoured
and value very much your passion and support for Swinburne,
so thank you so much. (APPLAUSE) The Swinburne Leadership Institute
will undoubtedly enrich our university, our city and our nation
through its insights, training and spotlight on leadership issues
that matter. It’s through education
that we prepare future generations and help them develop
the intellect needed to keep Australia
at the cutting edge of global knowledge. For centuries, universities
have played the leading role in extending
the boundaries of knowledge, introducing new perspectives,
new cures for disease, new materials for construction and new insights into
our origins and development. At a time of almost unanimous outcries
about the superficiality of politics, the moral crisis within business and the decline of leadership
in general, universities must step up to the plate to reclaim our true role as thought
leaders of and for the community. It is this leadership role
that is driving the transformation that Swinburne is embarking on. Last Friday, I made an announcement about significant changes
that Swinburne will be taking to help the university
move forward on its journey to be Australia’s leading university
for science, technology and innovation. The changes we announced are designed to
support our vision for Swinburne in 2020 that will position us for future growth and ensure that we remain
competitive and strong. I know that many of you
might have heard the news and you will be receiving more
information as alumni about the changes through email tomorrow,
just to keep you well informed, as well. But I would like to take
this opportunity to assure you that we are working closely
with our staff and our students to ensure that there is a new and smooth
transition towards the future. This will involve regular communication
and on-going consultation as we implement
our vision for the future. This is something I’d be happy to talk
to you about later this evening. But for now, I’d like to bring
our focus back to the lecture tonight. Over the years, we have been fortunate
to have some very engaging speakers take part in
this Chancellor’s Lecture series. Among them was Dr Ziggy Switkowski who spoke about a subject
that he’s passionate about but is controversial for many. His passion and knowledge
of nuclear power certainly inspired a lively debate
in this room and provided us
with much to think about. We have also been fortunate
to have another Swinburne alumni, Sonny Tilders, as a guest speaker. Sonny has spent the last 20 years
making critters and unusual contraptions for the theatrical and film industries. Examples of his work have featured in
Walking With Dinosaurs as well as films
such as Peter Pan, Ghost Rider and The Chronicles of Narnia. So it’s a great privilege
to have a range of speakers from diverse backgrounds
for this very popular lecture series. It’s not only a wonderful way to keep
our Swinburne community connected, but also an important medium through
which to create dialogue and direction. We’re delighted to see so many of you
here this evening for what promises to be
a fascinating and engaging lecture. So welcome again
and thank you for joining us. (APPLAUSE) Thank you, vice chancellor. It’s now my pleasure to introduce
our chancellor, Mr Bill Scales. (APPLAUSE) Thank you, Michael.
And if I could echo Linda’s words and say how pleased we are
that so many of you are here tonight. As I’ve said on the evenings
of other Chancellor’s Lectures, we regard this as being
one of the highlights of the year for a number of reasons, not the least
because it gives us an opportunity to be able to say thank you
to our alumni for all the support that they give us
during the year, for all of our friends and supporters for the way in which they, like Steve
Graham and others, are supporting us through all of the activities
that we’re involved in. So these are really
quite important nights for us. They’re also important nights because,
as Linda indicated, they do give us an opportunity
to be able to have, in a university environment, the opportunity to be able to listen
and to learn from people who are involved in
some of the most difficult, controversial or topical issues
of our time. And the sorts of people that Linda was
talking about I think fit that category. Gary Banks, for example,
head of the Productivity Commission, was also one of the others
that came and spoke to us about what might seem like
an esoteric subject, but it’s about the whole issue
about informed policy debate and how that might play itself out
in a broader political context and the way in which it enlivens
and strengthens our lives. So these are really important debates
and tonight will be no exception. Can I just divert slightly and just say
a note of thank you to Linda for what she’s been doing
over the last week? You would’ve read about some of the
changes that are going on at Swinburne. They are the right changes
at the right time and we’re doing them in the right way. But over the last three days, Linda has been talking to all of
our staff in all of our campuses. I don’t know why she’s actually here. She should be asleep.
She should be exhausted. But she’s doing what, of course,
many of you would be doing in your own businesses and that is trying to make sure that we communicate with our staff
when change happens in an honest, open and considerate way, in a way which hopefully encourages
people to participate in this change and to be part of it
as we’re going through it. And so, Linda, thank you very much for all the terrific work
you’ve been doing over the last week and over the last 12 months.
We really appreciate it. (APPLAUSE) Let me now turn to Ken Chern. As Linda indicated, Ken was appointed
the professor of Asian Policy and the executive director
of the Swinburne Leadership Institute in January of this year. Previously Ken was
professorial research fellow at the Murdoch University in Perth following a significant career
in the United States Foreign Service. He served as the United States Consul
General in Perth for three years from 2007. His immediate prior assignment
was as Deputy Consul General in Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. Before that,
he served as deputy director of the Office of the Philippines
in Malaysia, Brunei, and Singapore Affairs
at the United States State Department. Of course, his focus,
as we will hear tonight, is on East Asian and Pacific affairs and he’s also been posted to Beijing,
Taipei, Hong Kong, Manila and many other parts
of the East Asian and Asian regions. In his Washington assignments, he’s worked at the State Department’s
China desk, the Japan desk, and very importantly, of course,
the Australia/New Zealand desk. He served in the White House
as Director of Asian Affairs at the National Security Council, helped to organise the very first
of the APEC leaders’ meetings, hosted by Bill Clinton in Seattle. Ladies and gentlemen,
please welcome Ken Chern. (APPLAUSE) Chancellor, vice chancellor, colleagues, honoured guests, I’m delighted to be with you to present
the Chancellor’s Lecture this evening. It’s a wonderful opportunity
to engage with alumni, staff members and friends of this
university and the wider community on a topic
I believe of compelling interest. Namely,
the question of leading across cultures, challenges for Australia
in the Asian Century. It’s especially meaningful for me since,
as the chancellor noted, I’ve spent my entire working life
dealing with Asia and I’ve spent a number of those years dealing with Asia
by working with Australia. Having spent most of my career
in the Foreign Service, I do feel a bit humble
about commenting on the state of affairs that diplomats helped to create. I’m reminded of the story
of the businessman, the lawyer, the doctor, the priest and the diplomat. They were all debating about
who had the most important job. The diplomat said,
“Well, clearly, my role is key.” “Business, prosperity and jobs
depend on me.” The attorney disagreed, saying,
“Well, society needs lawyers more because without a legal framework,
business will run amuck.” The doctor remarked,
“Perhaps, but without medicine, human birth is at risk,
life itself is at risk.” The priest responded,
“Yes, but don’t forget, preceding life and birth is the divine.” “Without the divine, all is chaos.” And the diplomat said,
“Who do you think created the chaos?” (LAUGHTER) In that spirit of humility, I’m happy to
share some thoughts with you tonight. Kim Beazley,
the former Australian defence minister, leader of the opposition and current
ambassador to the United States, has pointed out that Australia, which was situated in a backwater area
of the world during the Cold War, now sits astride the world’s centre
of economic and strategic gravity, the Asia-Pacific. Prime Minister Gillard’s government
has responded to this by inviting submissions to its white
paper on Australia in the Asian Century that most of us are familiar with. And this has stimulated
considerable public debate here. Appreciation of the new reality
is bipartisan. Not long ago,
opposition leader Tony Abbott advocated integrating Australia more
closely with the economies of Asia and establishing
a new two-way Colombo Plan for educational exchange with Asia. The question I’ll raise tonight
is how Australia can position itself to do good and do well. How can it do good and yet advance its own
national interests in the Asian Century at the same time
and not get into a quagmire? Answering that question is kind of like
threading a needle, it seems to me. Democracies like Australia, Japan,
the UK and the United States consistently try to reconcile interests
and values in their foreign policy. Often times, interests trump values. To thread the needle, Australia’s
going to need real leadership, authentic leadership. That is to say, the advancement
of an enlightened self-interest encompassing Australian
economic and security concerns as well as reaching
across cultural divides to promote civil society,
human rights and democratisation in a vast, crucial and bafflingly
complex region of the world. Political scientists refer to
nations like Canada and Australia as “middle powers”. They are neither super-powers,
like the United States, nor big powers, like Germany, nor small powers, like Denmark. Middle powers generally
can’t force action like the big ones, so they use their wits. Australia’s population is small,
but it has vast resources, a continental size, a high level of education
and technology, the 13th largest economy in the world
with that tiny population, and a credible voice
in international affairs. For many decades,
Australia has punched above its weight in a number of niches. Working to help establish
the United Nations, Minister Evatt in 1945 played a clear
intellectual role and political role. Much later,
the creation of APEC in the 1990s. Crafting of
the Chemical Weapons Convention. Engineering a peace settlement
in Cambodia. Trust development exercises
with Southeast Asian countries. Australia’s all over the place. And I was pleased to be there
at the payoff for Prime Minister Bob Hawke’s
earlier leadership as I helped to organise
the inaugural APEC Leaders’ Meeting, that was mentioned by the chancellor
in his introduction, in 1993. Not everybody recalls that
the Hawke government laid the foundation for a key piece of the Asia-Pacific’s
emerging regional architecture. Australian leaders such as
former foreign minister Gareth Evans often pursue
what’s known as middle power diplomacy, seeking coalitions with likeminded
nations in multilateral groups to advocate public good, such as APEC or the Cambodia Settlement. Other leaders,
like former Prime Minister Howard, have placed more stress
of bilateral relationships, particularly with the United States and particularly to build security
and combat terrorism. Such a dichotomy needs to be overcome. Leadership in the Asian Century will require Australia
to transcend this duality and excel at both multilateral
and bilateral diplomacy. LBJ, the American president,
Lyndon Johnson, in the 60s had a good way of putting it. “You need to be able to walk
and chew gum at the same time.” Australia needs to do both. Such leadership
will require integrity, courage, balance, innovation,
communication, practicality. The values that the vice chancellor
mentioned in her introduction and the values so closely associated
with Swinburne University and values that our new
Swinburne Leadership Institute is seeking to study and encourage. If an ethical individual
is required to speak truth to power, Australia must speak truth to powers. Great powers,
like China and the United States, and to smaller powers,
such as Indonesia and Burma, using its knowledge, its creativity, its cultural literacy
and its credibility to advance both its national interests and the quest for a peaceful
and prosperous Asia. Someone was saying to me
just before the lecture that Australia was seen in China
20, 30 years ago as less threatening
than the United States. It wasn’t an imperialist. And I think Australia
can take advantage of the relatively high trust level
even today in Asia to do more than sometimes
even larger powers, like the US, can do. The first task of all is to ensure that
Australia develops and keeps that edge in knowledge, creativity
and credibility. Australia must do this
in order to cooperate with Asia, to compete with Asia
and to influence Asia. And the lucky country can do this only if it ensures that its human
resources match its mineral resources, its energy resources
and its agricultural resources. Like the US,
Australia faces problems in producing enough
top scientific talent and is dissatisfied with
its mediocre educational rankings vis-a-vis other industrial democracies
in Europe and Asia. Kim Beazley made the point well
a few years back, noting that the best statistic
he had seen about Western Australia was not the amount of iron ore
it pulled from the ground or the amount of natural gas
it shipped to Japan, it was that, of all the mining software
used around the world, 70 percent was developed in WA. That’s a statistic to grab hold of and think of as a model
for what this country should be doing. The larger point is clear. We need to jump-start our education so that no matter what
the state of the mines, no matter what the price of natural gas or the world market for cattle
a generation down the line, our young people will have
the skills and the intellect to keep Australia at the cutting edge
of a global knowledge economy. After all, China is endorsing education and investing massively
in research and development, rapidly expanding and improving
its university system, graduating half a million science
and engineering majors every year. India has also made huge strides. I don’t have time to focus on India
tonight but that’s another lecture. Huge strides
in scientific education and research. The BRIC countries are on the move. Not to mention
the world-class educational systems that drive Singapore,
South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong. Yet in Australia, it’s unclear if
the recommendations of the Gonski review will be fully implemented. The new secondary school
physics curriculum has been criticised for containing too much sociology
of physics and not enough equations. The chief scientist has warned
that a growing anti-science culture and the avoidance of science courses
by Year 11 and 12 students may threaten Australian education,
Australian innovation and Australian economic well-being. It took protests by Australia’s
leading scientists last year, Fiona Stanley and others, to avoid a $400 million cut
to the nation’s medical research budget. A related problem, flagged for me by someone
who’s worked recently at the institute, is the difficulty faced
by many top science PhDs in even establishing a research career, suggesting the need for stepped-up
research infrastructure development in other scientific fields that would
help Australia remain competitive. And there’s been a decades-long erosion of Asian language studies
in Australian schools which must be reversed if Australians
are to acquire the cultural as well as technical literacy that will enable them to capitalise on all those economic
and professional opportunities that Asia is going to offer. Government, business and academia
need to innovate, to lead, in capturing the imagination
of a new generation. Why not establish a major fund, not $36 million,
we’re into the billions now, a major research fund providing thousands of
special fellowships each year, call them Asian Century fellowships, to study science, engineering
and critical languages? Without developing its human potential,
Australia cannot lead or even compete in this Asian Century. Australia must also invest more in the key instrument of its smart power
projection in Asia, its Foreign Service. Middle powers must be savvy and nimble to discern and seize opportunities
for international leadership. When I served as Australia desk officer
in the State Department in the mid-90s, my counterparts
at the Australian Embassy in Washington displayed that kind of savvy. In fact, they seemed to know what was
going on at the White House before I did. I had to put my jets on afterburners
just to keep up with them. But they were spectacularly effective. However, Australia’s investment in its
department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has languished for over a decade
under both parties. Alex Oliver and Andrew Shearer
of the Lowy Institute last year referred to
Australia’s diplomatic network as over-stretched and hollowed out. This year’s budget cuts
will reduce Australia’s diplomatic staff by another 150 to 200 positions, placing Australian overseas missions
at yet more risk of burnout in perusing both bilateral
and multilateral diplomacy. Without restoring and increasing
its diplomatic muscle, Australia will have trouble helping
steer events in the Asian Century. No event today is more important
for Asia, nor for Australia and world politics,
than the rise of China. And there is no bigger question mark
for the future than the role and the attitude of China. For 30 years, China has sky-rocketed from the shambles
of the cultural revolution which I witnessed
during my first visit to China in 1976. It’s now seized the second spot
among all world economies in 2011. It’s created vast opportunities,
as Australians well know, for Asia-Pacific
trading and investment partners, and a huge network
of foreign economic ties with China. But China’s rapid military growth and its assertive disputation
of territorial claims in the East and South China Seas
in recent years have put neighbouring countries on edge. Japan, the Philippines,
Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam have all enhanced
their security dialogues or defence ties
with the United States. Professor Hugh White, the distinguished analyst
from the Australian National University, has suggested that we’re at
an inflection point of power shift where China’s
economic and political rise, along with US weakness occasioned by the
global financial crisis and two wars, portends three possible outcome. According to Hugh White, the first possibility
is a US retreat from the Asia-Pacific. The second possibility is an unlikely
though desirable concert of powers, including the US, China,
Japan and India. The third possibility envisioned by
Hugh White is rising US-China tension and the deterioration
of the Asia-Pacific system. Professor White and others have warned that the US strategic rebalancing
of its military posture toward Asia, in effect resisting
Chinese challenges to US primacy, creates a risk of escalating tensions
with China. White has criticised Australia’s welcome
for 2,500 US marines to train in Darwin as, in effect, a US-Australian view
of ANZUS as directed against China. I disagree with White’s arguments that China will overtake the US
in strategic terms any time soon. And I disagree with his view that the US marine deployment to Darwin
is provocative. However, White’s thesis is an important
part of the discussion and debate about how to accommodate
the Asia-Pacific and the world to China’s rise. Australia has a huge stake
in US-China relations because, quite obviously, while
China is Australia’s greatest market, the US is Australia’s closest ally. And like all nations
in the Asia-Pacific, Australia will be greatly affected
by the inability or the ability of China and the United States
to get along. My feeling is
Australia has acted shrewdly in developing economic
and political ties with China whilst strengthening its economic,
political and alliance ties with the Unites States. Although Australia is not in a position,
obviously, to single-handedly alter
the course of US-China relations, Australia benefits from the reality
that China and the US, both in economic relations
and other fields, need each other and will continue to need each other
for the foreseeable future. There is much parallelism,
it seems to me, between US-China
and Australia-China relations. In particular,
the vast web of economic ties that bind both Australia and the US
to China. Australia and the US share a common
interest in developing those ties and in utilising incentives
and disincentives to encourage China’s movement toward more positive
and constructive relationships in the Asia-Pacific and beyond. The goal that World Bank president
Robert Zoellick articulated for China to emerge
as a responsible stakeholder in the Asia-Pacific and global systems
has not changed. Defence Minister Stephen Smith’s
indication during the Indonesian presidential visit
last week that Australian, Indonesian
and US forces would undertake disaster relief military
exercises at the top end in 2013 and that China would be invited
to observe, send observers to those exercises, is a good case in point of Australian
transparency and outreach to China that should help mitigate
Chinese suspicions that Australia is part of any attempt
to contain or encircle China. Such transparency and communication are vital to a continuing successful
approach by Australia to China. I would also endorse the recommendation by Linda Jakobson this autumn
of the Lowy Institute that Australia pursue an annual strategic and economic dialogue
with China at the cabinet ministerial level, in parallel with similar dialogues that the US and others countries
maintain with China, to convey Australia’s perspectives
on the US alliance and other aspects
of Australian strategic intent while better discerning China’s own
concerns and intentions and building communication and trust. Above all, to play a positive role as a knowledgeable and influential
middle power, to lead, China… Excuse me. ..Australia will need to
maintain a policy of balance, continuing to nurture
its ties with China but standing up for the interests
it shares with other nations in the peaceful resolution of disputes and the free flow of trade
in Asia-Pacific waters. Above all, too, Australia must display
the courage to speak truth to powers. To the United States as an ally,
as it has done before, and to China as a friend,
as it has done before. The Americans understand and value
Australian candour. As a politician in Perth told me
while I was Consul General there, “We’re mates but we don’t always agree.” Chinese leaders also recognise Australia’s commitments
to the international system and its ties to the United States. In sum, there is no need
either for provocation of China or for pre-emptive capitulation
to China. Another country,
not a great power like China, but just as important to Australia
in the Asian Century, is Indonesia. The world’s fourth largest population, its third largest democracy and its largest Muslim nation, Indonesia straddles vital sea lanes
and is a close-by neighbour. What happens there… ..cannot be exaggerated in
its importance to Australia’s future. Canberra and Jakarta
seem to be getting on well, security cooperation is productive, the two governments work harmoniously
in multilateral and other groupings on issues like deforestation
and climate change. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, whose government has made great strides
in democratisation, decentralisation, economic growth
and international participation, views Australia as a close friend. However, it seems to me that the burden
for Australian leadership in relationship to Indonesia is to dispel public mistrust arising from the cultural gap
between the countries and stereotyped perceptions
between the two countries and to help Indonesia
build a civil society and an economic foundation
for a prosperous future. Australia needs to drive this process before President Yudhoyono retires
in 2014 and high-level relations
enter uncharted waters. Australia has creditably supported Indonesian civil society
via development assistance despite the culture gap. If Australia…
Excuse me, if Indonesia modernises and its governance
becomes more democratic and it deepens its nascent traditions
of civil society, the gap could dissipate as a vibrant, pluralistic society
resonates with Australian values. And such a society would also,
as a by-product, present a compelling model
for the developing world, particularly Muslim countries. However, it seems to me that certain
factors in Indonesia’s governance may frustrate this interest. Former White House Asia Director and
Indonesian specialist, Karen Brooks, has commended Indonesia’s progress
under president Yudhoyono. But she has also flagged persistent
corruption at all levels of government, including at high levels
in the president’s political party. And, ironically,
along with decentralisation of power, decentralisation of graft. Now you don’t just have to pay off
the people in Jakarta, you have to pay off the people
in the provinces and the villages. Kickbacks at all levels. These phenomena threaten the prospects of an Indonesian model
of multi-party democratic government. Indonesia has also
backslid on international commitments to reduce or eliminate trade barriers, a development that Mr Greg Moriarty,
Australia’s ambassador to Indonesia, terms “rising economic nationalism.” Australian trade with Indonesia is less than two thirds of
Australia’s trade with New Zealand, which has only two percent
of Indonesia’s population and only one fifth its GDP. Australia must find ways to help
Indonesia renew its attack on corruption and to re-engage firmly
with the world economy if Australia’s trade, investment
and democratic political system are to anchor its economic development
and its international role. Because of the culture gap,
it seems to me that purely official efforts
to encourage reforms in Indonesia’s
trade policy and governance would likely be taken as condescending. This is an area where
the concept of second-track diplomacy can and should be brought into play. The second track, that is the involvement
of the private sector in foreign policy, has been cogently advocated
by observers such as John Denton, chairman of
the Global Engagement Task Force of the Business Council of Australia. Denton notes that private sector
organisations and individuals can contribute directly and indirectly to Australia’s
foreign policy objectives. Businesses, NGOs,
think tanks, universities have the knowledge, the connections
and sometimes the credibility that can ascertain
the sources of influence abroad, facilitate the exercise
of Australia’s soft power and augment official policy. Applying this theory
to Indonesian policy, the Commonwealth government
should jump-start its engagement
with private sector organisations knowledgeable about the Indonesian
trade and governance issues. Canberra should stimulate
second-track dialogue with Indonesian counterparts
on these issues and organise a long overdue state visit
by the prime minister to Jakarta with a strong private-sector contingent. Given the sensitivity of the issues
and the culture gap, this must be done
with tact and discretion. The risk of offence is real and Australians should exercise
cross-cultural leadership, approaching the task
in the spirit of the Chinese aphorism… (SPEAKS CHINESE) That is to say, “Learn from each other,
help each other.” A touch of humility makes it
more likely that we’ll be listened to. For the long haul, addressing the cultural literacy deficit
will be crucial. Perhaps as Hugh White has suggested, through a government-funded programme to send 10,000 young Australians a year
to Indonesia to study Bahasa
and learn about the country, something related to my earlier thought
about a major fellowship programme. A hallmark of Australia’s leadership
in Asia has been, and should continue to be, its commitment to civil society,
democratisation and human rights. This is important not only because
it’s the right thing to do, but also because it’s in Australia’s
long-term national interest. In the early 1990s, prime ministers
Mahathir and Lee Kuan Yew spoke for
Malaysian and Singaporean elites in articulating Asian values,
as they called it, to rebut foreign criticisms
of their human rights practices. 20 years later,
a strong democracy in Japan, rollicking party politics
in Taiwan and South Korea, democratisation in Indonesia, contested elections in Malaysia, wake-up calls
to the government of Singapore, not to mention the Arab Spring, are powerful signals
of the universal human aspiration to freedom and self-government. The Australian people
have been on the right side of history, welcoming human rights advocates
like the Dalai Lama, exiled Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer
from China’s Northwest, and Anwar Ibrahim of Malaysia to visit and make presentations at
universities in Melbourne and elsewhere. Aung San Suu Kyi has thanked Australia
for its support during the decades of her repression
by Burma’s military government. Like the United States, Australia has used its annual
human rights dialogues with China to discuss concerns about
China’s human rights practices and press China
on prisoners of special concern, even while offering technical assistance
to the Chinese to develop their legal system
and infrastructure. Pressure and assistance. Balance. Walking and chewing gum.
Not that hard if you think about it. To lead in the Asian Century,
the Australian government and people must continue to stand up
for their values and for the internationally-accepted
human rights norms that will be a growing focus of demands
from people across the region. In her speech to the UN Fourth
World Conference on Women in 1995, Hilary Clinton made a profound point. Human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights. It was no longer acceptable
to discuss the two separately. “Abuses of women had continued,”
Clinton said, “because for too long the history of
women has been a history of silence.” Australia’s voice has rung out clearly
for women’s rights as human rights. At the High Level Summit
of the Women Leaders’ Forum in Rio De Janeiro this June, Prime Minister Gillard spotlighted Australia’s responsibility
as a G20 member to contribute to women’s equality
on a global scale. The prime minister noted that
the Asia-Pacific was losing up to $47 billion US annually due to women’s limited access
to employment, and another $30 billion
because of gender gaps in education. And she stated that nearly half
of Australia’s aid expenditure was to support gender equality
and the empowerment of women. Implicitly,
the prime minister made the point that the exclusion by gender of half
the population of many societies from education
and productive employment is not only a human rights catastrophe but also a crippling blow to development
prospects and the chance for prosperity. Australia has led in developing a
regional approach to human trafficking, a crime whose victims
are 80 percent female, and which traps hundreds of thousands
of Asian women and children annually. Canberra works closely with
the ASEAN countries and has helped to train more than
7,000 police, judges and prosecutors to investigate and prosecute
the traffickers. Australia co-chairs
and is co-founder of the Bali Process on people smuggling,
trafficking in persons and related transnational crime. Australia is pressing to reduce the vulnerability of individuals
and communities to trafficking through poverty alleviation and
increased opportunities for education and sustainable livelihoods. Chairman Mao used to quote
an old Chinese proverb, “Women hold up half the sky.” Because globalisation has ratcheted up many challenges facing women
in developing countries and has actually accelerated the pace
of human trafficking, it’s important that Australia
not only maintain but step up its efforts
to combat trafficking and tap the potential of women in
the Asia-Pacific to reach for the sky. There are many challenges
posed to Australian leadership in the Asian Century. But building
Australia’s human resources, dealing forthrightly
with China and Indonesia, and standing up for
human and women’s rights are among the most important
of the tasks ahead. Australia clearly has the capacity
to do great things if it can summon the will, the energy,
and the imagination to do so. Thanks for coming. Thanks for listening. (APPLAUSE) Thank you, Ken, for your insights,
and you very modestly say that you need to have your afterburners
on in order to keep up. I’ve seen you with your afterburners on
and it is something to behold. We’ll now throw open the floor
for some questions. We’ve got some roving mics. So, a show of hands. You have a question? Thank you, professor.
Actually a brilliant analysis. I speak as one with limited but
long-standing experience with China. I first went there in ’77, ’79, ’81,
had my honeymoon there in ’86 and opened a business office in Shanghai
and it’s still there. But there is a paradox,
and the paradox to me is… And I’ve just been to China recently and seen hundreds of thousands
of two-storey townhouses sold off, hundreds of thousands of them,
I was down in the Southwest. And this makes one realise that
there is a great prosperity in China which is in their enlightened
self-interest to foster. And it makes me feel secure
about the future because if a country is flourishing, and there’s quite a lot of talk,
as you mention, about the defence situation,
the military, but if China is increasingly prosperous, it seems to me that the soft options
which you’ve mentioned, training, education, exchange, are much more preferable
than the hard options of weapons. So, to me, there’s a paradox there, and I would like your reflections
on the paradox which with China is prosperity, this, to me,
seems to diminish the military and emphasise
the need for soft relationships, such as we’ve done so well with APEC. Getting Clinton to chair that first APEC
in Seattle was brilliant. So would you like to expand a little bit
on that paradox of social and economic standing
and prosperity and comfort against what the military people
might be still seeing as, “Well, we’ve got to kerb the Chinese.” Or the Chinese military saying, “Hey,
we’ve got to kerb the Americans.” I’m sorry, that’s a bit rambling, but that is the paradox, I think,
in diplomacy as it confronts Australia. Thanks for that. I’d be delighted
to talk about that, John. Thank you for raising it.
There are paradoxes… ..in China and in China’s relationship
with the outside world and the Western world in particular. I remember when I was on
the Tiananmen task force in 1989 after the tragedy there. The thing that’s implanted in my mind
is those college kids holding up the goddess of democracy, which was modelled on
the Statue of Liberty, which was given as a gift
to the people of the United States by the people of France
a century and a half earlier. So there was a resonation, for me,
in terms of their idealism. As China has grown stronger
and more prosperous, there are aspects of Chinese society that are more sophisticated
and more outward-looking, which is a good thing
and we want to encourage those. There’s also some more nationalism
at the same time and a profound sense in China of denial by Western and foreign countries of China’s rights and China’s unity. So if you put yourself in China’s shoes, you see the world
from a different vantage point, and I think that while China’s
more sophisticated today and there are far more Chinese who have studied in Australia,
the US and Britain, there is also more assertiveness
among young Chinese and I think we have to be prepared to
work with the folks who reach out to us and to soften the assertiveness
in any way we can. Thanks for that. (MAN) Thank you for your talk.
I enjoyed it very much. You talked about the importance of tact
and diplomacy with Indonesians and I was wondering
if you might be willing to reflect upon how tact plays off
against domestic politics. I’m thinking in particular
of the whole issue of refugee and border control policy, which has probably been one of the most
intractable of public policies in Australia over the last ten years. My understanding is that the Indonesians
and other East Asian countries are not on the whole
impressed by Australian public policy in relation to refugees
and border control. And I was hoping
you might be able to reflect on that and also how domestic politics,
in relation to these issues, plays off in managing these issues
with tact. Thanks for that, Michael.
A very astute question because it also relates to dilemmas
in the United States about immigration. You could look at US strains
and stresses over immigration in much the same way that Australia
has stresses and strains in immigration, though the problem
is really much larger in the US with anything between 10 and 15 million
illegal immigrants. So there’s an actuality there. It’s a nightmare
but maybe not quite realised here. I think that one of the problems
that you identified, that is to say
the political football element in dealing with immigration issues, is something that is an irritant and potentially could be a increased
irritant for relations with Indonesia. I felt it was a shame
that about six months ago, the representative for… or the shadow minister for immigration,
Scott Morrison, and the minister for immigration,
Chris Bowen, were very close, very close to a deal. But politics got in the way. I’m not assigning blame to one party,
but politics got in the way. And to overcome that I think will be
difficult because so often high-stress and hot-button
emotional issues like immigration… On the one hand, people who say,
“We need an onshore solution because of the terrible suffering
that people endure and the fear that many of them have
to go back home.” And on the other hand,
“Well, so many wait in line.” “Should we let people,
some of whom may be economic migrants, skip over the line?” Not easy arguments to answer
on either side without casting judgement either way. I think that one way of handling
immigration and relations with Indonesia
and other regional countries, something I suggested about a month ago, is to, as the headline put it,
start talking to the neighbours. Talk to Indonesia, seize Indonesia’s interest
in creating a regional approach to illegal immigration
or asylum seekers, depending on your political bias
how you frame that phrase. Do some regional thinking about this. The Indonesians have been calling for
a more regional approach. And at the latest ministerial,
under the Bali Process in I think it was June 2011, Chris Bowen made the point that Australia seeks to continue
region dialogue under the Bali Process,
which is suggested but not binding. And it seems to me that if Australia
would participate in a Bali dialogue focusing on the immigration issue at the next meeting of that dialogue, it would secure for Australia a good deal of goodwill
from countries in the region, it would not force Australia to
surrender an iota of sovereignty because it’s not a binding process, and it would give Australia
a chance to air its concerns and to bat the issue around
with other regional players. That’s one way, I suppose,
of using a softer power or a slightly more humble approach without creating
any direct negative effect. I do confess that this a long term
kind of proposition and the immediate problems that we see
would have to be resolved, too. So what I’m looking at
I think is necessary but not sufficient. And how you get around
the party politics in elections and how the issues are framed in a way
that invites concern abroad is not an easy answer
for either Australia or other countries in Europe
or the States. Thanks. Hi. I guess as a bit of a follow-on
to that, the issue about women
and women’s leadership roles. It sort of seems to me
to be a little bit hypocritical. There’s been a report by the Grattan
Institute which actually says that women’s participation
in the workforce in Australia is actually below
quite a number of other countries and for Australia to talk about women and women’s rights
and women’s leadership seems to me, in the same way
that we potentially lack credibility around the refugee issue, that we sort of lack
a little bit of credibility around that, as well.
Would you like to comment on that? Yes, thank you,
because it’s also an important point and I totally agree
that to have credibility, Australia needs to walk the walk
as well as talk the talk. Australia needs to address
and needs to be seen to be addressing the issue of women’s participation
in business, in government, in science, in the arts. Coming back to my science problem, there are not enough young women who are
entering the sciences and engineering. There are not enough women
who are on the boards of corporations. Even though many more women
are working now, that glass ceiling
hasn’t been shattered yet. These may be, again, long-term issues, but Australia has to address them and
has to be seen to be addressing them, otherwise it looks hypocritical. I totally agree. Thanks. (MAN) That’s it. Up the front. Ken, you’re in a very good position, having engaged with Australia
over a number of years and in a number of different ways,
to comment. Is there a flavour to Australia’s
engagement with the rest of the world in the same way as a lot of countries
have a perceived image of how they engage with
the rest of the world, and do you see that there’s a need
to change that approach? Are we moving from a shrimps on the
barbie type approach to something… Do we need to move to something else in order to, as you say,
punch above our weight in our region and not be regarded as
a meddlesome middle power? Yeah, also an important question, and I would say that Australia
has been perceived as a particularly imaginative and active
player in the international system. Back in the 50s and 60s, Australia developed military cooperation with Malaysia, Singapore
and other Southeast Asian countries during a time of great international
and ideological tension. In the late 80s and 90s,
it was key to building trust in the ASEAN Regional Forum, that is to say the relationship
between what were then five countries, now ten ASEAN countries, and the outside powers
in the Asia-Pacific, APEC. I think far from
a shrimp on the barbie kind of image, Australia has a very impressive image,
I think, in Asia and beyond, as well. I think it needs to keep running quickly
to keep up and do things well. It can’t sit on its laurels and say, “Well, we’re well known
and we do good work.” It has to figure out
new things that it can contribute and new initiatives that it can take so that it doesn’t appear to be,
er, coasting. That’s always the risk. When you’ve done well,
there’s always a risk of coasting. And that’s why I worry about
cutting the Foreign Service down. I read one statistic that if they cut
200 from the Foreign Service this year and next year, I think there were roughly 2,000 non-visa and non-consular
Foreign Service officers. That’s a ten percent cut. And, you know, we went through that
in the Foreign Service. I’m sure Consul General remembers this
back in the 90s when they said, “Do more with less.” And the State Department suffered
a 52 percent cut in real dollars from the late 80s to the mid-90s. I can tell you,
it didn’t make us any more effective. And we had Colin Powell to thank. He’s the guy who came in and said,
“How are we going to get this job done?” Not only did he want to get the money, he knew how to get the money
from congress. And we had the war for talent,
the Diplomatic Readiness Initiative and the Foreign Service
became far stronger as a result. Australia needs to keep its eye
on the ball. In the Asian Century, the diplomats
are the instruments of soft power. Give them what they need
to project that power. Thanks. Ladies and gentlemen, that’s all we’ve
got time for in the way of questions but you’ll have an opportunity
in a few moments to have a chat to Professor Chern. We’ll adjourn to the foyer and you’ll have a chance
to network with each other and to pose some of your questions
to Ken. I’ll start by presenting Ken
with a token of our appreciation. (APPLAUSE) – Thank you.
– Oh, my gosh. Thank you. That’s very kind. I appreciate that. And our lucky door prize.
I’m not looking at the bowl. Oh, here we go. We’ll make it
even more independent. There you go. (LAUGHTER) I think I put my card in there,
but I won’t take it. (LAUGHTER) OK. Mr Robert Kirkham. (APPLAUSE) We won’t ask you to come down. We’ll have the prize waiting for you
at the end. That brings the formalities
for this evening to an end, but just before we let you go, Professor Chern alluded to
the importance of education and one thing that Swinburne Alumni and
Development have just launched recently is our annual appeal,
the theme of which is education. For those of us that work
in the tertiary sector, one of the reasons we do so is that we
believe that education is everything. And a number of the students
that we have here are really clinging onto their
opportunity for education by the skin of their teeth. So anything that you can spare or a consideration
you’d like to make for those students would be greatly appreciated. So for those of you
who would like to make a contribution, we’ll have some forms waiting for you
outside. So once again, I thank you so much
for coming. If you’d like to… Could I also just say that
if anybody’s interested in receiving information-like blogs
from the institute or news from the institute, invitations, we have a brochure outside
that you’re welcome to pick up. Thanks for that also. (APPLAUSE) This has been a Swinburne production.