Mind your language | The Age

THE Australia in the Asian Century white paper is to be applauded as an eloquent statement of the critical importance of the Asian region for Australia's future.

It brings together a wide range of policy ideas from the private and public sectors in a strong and well-structured strategy, but it also sets some enormous - and probably expensive - challenges for Australian governments.

The most obvious of these is ''Asia Capability'' (chapter 6 of the paper), which is the foundation of the white paper's strategy for Asian engagement, and thus a test of the overall viability of the white paper itself. If Asian capability is weak, then the other limbs of the strategy cannot succeed.

The white paper acknowledges this, saying, ''The capacity for Australians to build deeper ties with Asia will be hampered if there is not an increase in proficiency of languages other than English. Relying on the language capabilities of Asian-Australians for all of Australia's relationships and engagement will not be adequate. Proficiency in more than one language is a basic skill of the 21st century.'' ...

The Age | Tim Lindsey | Published:  October 30, 2012 | Read more


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