Wednesday, 25 April 2012

ANZAC - Old Values for a New Country

COLMSLIE SUB-BRANCH RSL SERVICE (Bulimba)
Bulimba Memorial Park, Brisbane
25 APRIL 2012

Soldiers of Australia.

Veterans of Australia.

Some may ask, after 97 years, what more is to be said of ANZAC.
 
The official history has been written.
The great speeches have all been made.
The trees planted as here in this memorial park, each one strong, old, established, each one of them here in memory of one of our local lads who went abroad to war only never to return.
The names Jacko, Simpson and the others, and their gallant deeds, all now etched into the nation’s memory.
The places, Gallipoli, Lone Pine and Suvla Bay, now the commonplace names of our streets, of our towns and of our cities.
The sounds, the bugle, the thud of cannon fire, the shrill whistle of shrapnel, echo still across the chasms of time.
The smells too. The smell of rotting flesh, the unmistakable stench of war, of all wars since time in memorial, compounded still by the sheer scale of this first, most modern carnage – killing now occuring on an industrial scale.
And then there is touch – the letters home from the front, epistles of hope crafted in a sea of despair, but as real, tangible, physical objects, paper held by a soldier’s muddied and sometimes trembling hand, loved with the ink of his pen, then held again by mothers, by wives, by sons and daughters, a world away from the slaughter.
These letters are like sacraments of a secular world, sacraments as we were once taught, the outward, physical sign of an inward spiritual event, transmitting life from the dead to the living.
In some senses, they are the epistles of our nationhood.
Signaller Ellis Silas of the 16th Battalion writes a few weeks after the Gallipolli landing, he says;

“The roll is called – how heart breaking it is – name after name is called, the reply a deep silence which can be felt, despite the noise of the incessant cracking of rifles and screaming of shrapnel. There are few of us left to answer our names – just a thin line of weary, ashen faced men, behind a mass of silent forms, once our comrades – there they have been dead for days, we have not had time to bury them.”

So to answer the question – what more is to be said? – I say a library of some 9000 volumes for that is the number of our own we committed to Gallipoli’s soil, a soil they nourish still.
These men, and the men and women who down the ages, proudly have worn the uniform of Australia, speak to us with fresh, clarion, clear voice each ANZAC dawn.
They and their voices burst through the acrid cynicism of our age like a shaft of unalloyed light.
They bring to us old values for this our new country – strong values, true values, values that have weathered the ages, values that have stood the test of time, values that soar above the petty controversies of our day, values that declare themselves still as our nation’s compass, values that are tested, values that are sure, values to help chart our future course, if we have eyes to see and hearts to hear.
For if it were not so, why do we gather now in thousands upon thousands, and more thousands each year as the distance between now and the time of ANZAC passes. We are here because these values of ANZAC mean something to us that is real today and they offer hope for tomorrow.
So what are these values and what to do they say to us and what hope do they offer us today.
Courage, when we feel we have none.
Fortitude, when we too readily complain about the tiniest hurdles in life.
Determination, when it’s so easy to simply fall away.
Solidarity (what they called mateship) when the ethos of our age is often to look after number one.
Sacrifice, speaking to an age when we demand everything today, if not yesterday.
A passionate sense of national purpose, now seen by some as unfashionable, if not down right extreme.
Civility, as reflected in the ANZAC’s  attitude to their foes the Turks (and the Turks to them), now speaks to an age when civility now seems often to be dead – as people tear each other to pieces, without even the excuse of war.
These are the values (just some of the values we see, sense and smell in what we still call ANZAC today) which confront afresh each April amidst the resignation, the malaise and the torpor of our current age.
They speak to us of new possibilities for the future.
They speak of a positive vision for our future.
They speak to us of the sheer perseverance that we need to get to that future
They say no, resoundingly no, to the despair that sometimes characterises our age.
Instead they say to us; lift up your eyes and with the eyes of our national imagination, imagine the country that we dare to be.
One which incorporates this ancient spirit of ANZAC into our modern way of life – and to do so, build the nation’s house on the surest of foundations – foundations of courage, of determination, of ingenuity, of mateship.
For otherwise, their sacrifice is in vain.
And the nation they fought for is little more than pedestrian, and every man’s journey, an unremarkable place.
I believe by instinct we Australians choose ANZAC and we are at our best when we so choose and respond to the better angels in our nature, and our absolute worst when we do not and we meekly submit to the spirit of the age.
Beyond these things, I believe the ANZACs would have us reflect on one further thing still.
Yes, they say to us honour the dead, and the values for which they died.
Yes, they say support the living.
And most importantly tend to the wounded.
We will soon have among us tens of thousands of returned servicemen and women from Iraq, from Afghanistan from Timor and from other parts of the world.
Our solemn oath to the ANZACS (and through them, through their RSL) is to look after these modern day ANZACs as well - who will march in greater and greater numbers in the ANZAC parades of the future.
This is the solemn duty of all Governments.
The solemn duty of the RSL.
The duty of all of us gathered here today in solemn ceremony.
Lest we forget the ANZACs of the past. Lest we forget the ANZACs of today. Lest we forget the values of ANZAC as we build the Australia of tomorrow.
Lest we forget.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

LAUNCH OF HEARTKIDS TELEVISION CAMPAIGN


TRANSCRIPT
LAUNCH OF HEARTKIDS TELEVISION CAMPAIGN
MATER HOSPITAL, SOUTH BRISBANE
18 APRIL, 2012

E & O E – PROOF ONLY

KEVIN RUDD: As has just been said I am a cardio kid, a heart kid. They think that I contracted rheumatic fever at the age of five. Back in those days, which was back in the 60s, these things often went undetected. As a result, by the age of 11 I discovered that the reason I was coming last in all of the cross countries wasn’t entirely because of a lack of effort on my part but there was something else at work as well. Then I discovered that I did indeed have a damaged aortic valve which in turn had an effect on the functioning of the left ventricle. And that was monitored for years and years and I had my first valve replacement surgery at the age of 33 or 34 and then with barely a word of publicity I managed to have it replaced again last year.

(laughter)

So my first aortic valve replacement was as a result of the huge generosity of an Australian family,  who had donated the aortic valve of a loved one. Most recently I had a replacement from a bovine valve and who knows what lies ahead. We’ll find out hopefully in 20 or so years time.

The reason for saying all that is simple, and that is cardiac disease, cardiovascular disease, and heart disease affects the lives of millions of Australians. Let’s just put this in perspective. Cardiovascular disease today is the single largest killer in Australia. The single largest killer in Australia.

Heart disease, stroke, vascular disease; if you look at cardiovascular disease as a group it affects 3.4 million Australians out of our total population of 22/23 million Australians. It affects 1 in 6 Australians therefore; it affects 2 out of 3 families. One Australian dies every 11 minutes as a result of one form of cardiovascular disease or another.

Go down within that to heart disease itself. That affects just shy of one million Australians, in fact about 800,000. In 2009, it claimed the lives of 22,500 Australians and 1 in 6 of all deaths in that particular year. One Australian dies every 23 minutes from heart disease.

Let’s go down again to how it affects little ones and what we can do today in terms of childhood heart disease. Every day six babies are born with heart defects.

Every day 6 babies are born with one form of heart defect or another. That’s over 2,000 a year and I’ve just been spending a little bit of time with some of those parents and some of those kids just now. And its moving to be just for a little while in the company of a family circle who’s love for the child just radiates and whose sense of gratitude and support for the wonderful work that you as professionals equally radiate. Because if you are going to have childhood heart disease let me tell you Australia is the place to be, Queensland is the place to be, Brisbane is the place to be and that Mater is the place to be. You do great work here.

It’s estimated that 32,000 children under the age of 18 are currently living with CHD that’s childhood heart disease, around Australia. Of course they acquire this disease for a number of reasons. One of which historically has been rheumatic fever, as per myself. Regrettably rheumatic fever still exists in our indigenous communities and it’s still a cause of a large incidence of heart disease amongst aboriginal kids and we need as a national objective to reduce that to zero as we have done for non-indigenous communities. If we are serious about closing the gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians let me tell you getting rid of rheumatic fever is one.

So what about HeartKids itself. HeartKids works to support families who have a child with heart disease. It works to reduce the incidence of childhood heart disease by supporting research. It also directly supports families through employment family support coordinators at the major children’s hospitals throughout Australia. And for families it’s pretty traumatic. Let’s just face it even for grownups like me, although some have contested whether I am fully grown up, if you’re a father of a little one and you see the affect of surgery down the chest of someone so little, so innocent and so vulnerable, it reduces most of us to tears. Because it is so fundamental to a little one’s life. What is wonderful about this photograph here is the smile of the little girl because that is major, and I know I’d describe it as intrusive surgery, and I’ve had a bit to do with it in recent years, and it’s not fun. But let me tell you once you’re through it with the care of professionals, the smile in these eyes is what is produced.

And that is what these folks HeartKids are all about and the work they do is terrific. The fact that these lives are increasingly being saved by advances in medical science and technology and by the sheer skill of the surgery intervention, the skills frankly with a surgical knife of the paediatric cardiology surgeons. And these folk deserve a thousand Nobel Prizes over in terms of the exquisite nature of the work that they do.

So the fact that Heart kids is in the midst of this, making a difference, I simply take off my hat to you all. On a related point, research is critical, I’ve looked at some the research which you’ve supported. There are two or three major research programs under way which you are in fact actively engaged in, one of which involves Dr Gavin Lambert, improving long term survival for patients with a single heart ventricle.

The changes which occur each year in treatment and in the quality of the drugs which are used to support kids coming through these things, is a minor revolution in itself.

When I was first diagnosed with this condition, it was back in the Stone Age.
Today, frankly, it is just light years better.  If I’ve been through two of these things and survived and to be reasonably confident of medicine today, then your kids and you have every reason to feel confident.
Very lastly, one of the things which I’m also associated with is organ donation.  It is also important in terms of whole hearts, also important in terms of tissue as well.  As Prime Minister, one of the things I was very proud of was to have established the Australian National Transplant Authority.  What we have seen over the first two years that it has been fully operational is the donation rate go up by about one third.
This is good.  Do you know something Australia? We can do a heck of a lot better. So when it comes to DonateLife, another great Australian institution, I say to all Australians get out there, go online and make sure you and your family make that commitment.
We still have one of the lower effective donation rates of the world, it’s getting better, but we can do much, much more.
I hope to be saying more on this, in the months ahead, now that I have a bit more free time on my hands.  So with those remarks, can I say to you, who are professionals working in the areas of cardiac specialists, those of you who are particularly passionate for the medical needs of children in this great hospital, the Mater, then I salute what you do.  To you the parents and families, those of you who are patients I salute you as well and with those remarks it gives me great pleasure to launch this video presentation which I hope will raise the consciousness of Australia more importantly get dollars in the pockets for HeartKids so that it can continue it’s great work.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Speech: BUILDING AN ASIA-LITERATE AUSTRALIA

BUILDING AN ASIA-LITERATE AUSTRALIA

Launch of the paper “Finding a Place on the Asian Stage”

by Carillo Gantner and Allison Carol

ASIALINK, University of Melbourne

16 APRIL 2012



I was delighted to accept the invitation to launch this platform paper entitled “Finding a place on the Asian Stage”. 
I have spent most of my professional life, in one capacity or another, engaged on the core question of Australia’s engagement with Asia.
I began studying Chinese 35 years ago at the Australian National University reinforced by further study in Taipei, Hong Kong and Beijing.
I worked as a diplomat in Beijing where it was my delight to have encountered one of the co-author’s of this paper, Carrillo Gantner, who was then our cultural councillor during the earliest days of our engagement with the People’s Republic.
In my years in the Queensland State Government, I worked on our sister relationship with Shanghai – remarkably in those days, deemed the ‘ugly duckling’ of China’s economic reform program Because it was then believed that Shanghai was not keeping up with the reforms of the rest of the country.  
I also worked extensively on Queensland Government policies underpinning the teaching of Asian languages in QLD schools and based on that experience, was asked to deliver for the Council of Australian Governments a report on a National Asian Languages Studies Strategy for Australian Schools (NALSAS), which underpinned Federal and State Government investment in these programs between 1995 and 2002.
After my election to the Federal Parliament, I broadened my Asian odyssey beyond China and as a member of Parliament and later as Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs and Leader of the Opposition, made it my business to spend more time in the other countries of the region, most particularly Japan and Indonesia.
Both as Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Australia’s future in Asia remained one of my core policy preoccupations – hence my advocacy of an Asia-Pacific community which finally achieved fruition in 2011 with the expansion of the East Asian Summit to include both the United States and Russia.
This created, for the first time, a regional institution with all the principal players around the table and with a mandate to address the future political, economic and security challenges of this, the most dynamic region in the world.
Over the years I have lived and travelled more in Asia than in any other region in the world, as for me it has always represented a core part of Australia’s long term future.
Asia has also been for us a family affair.
My daughter Jessica’s husband Albert is a Chinese Australian whose parents came to Australia in the 1980s via Hong Kong and Guangdong, where they grew up during the Cultural Revolution. And next month we’re expecting our first grandchild and I’m looking forward very much to the family discussions over the little one’s English and Chinese names.
Over the last weekend, our oldest son Nicholas married the love of his life Zara who he met at law school having come to Australia from Brunei.
And to complete the trifecta, our youngest son Marcus is undertaking his gap year at Peking University studying Chinese full time (and hopefully acquiring a Confucian work ethic on the way through).
The reason I say these things is that I have thought long and hard, written much, and perhaps spoken too much, on this central challenge for Australia’s future: how do we as a country of barely 23 million, many of us relatively recently arrived Europeans, carve out our future in this vast region which Europeans have called “Asia”- a region that is home to some of the most ancient continuing civilisations on earth, some of the oldest continuing religions and philosophical systems in the world, and now the global geo-strategic and geo-economic centre of gravity for the 21st Century.

Australia has been episodically engaged in this critical national project since the days of Chifley and Evatt in the 1940s.
Chifley and Evatt, despite still being “sons of empire”, actually “got it” in terms of Australia’s alternative destiny in the Asian hemisphere.
Against the assumptions of the time, it is remarkable that Evatt championed Indonesian independence against the Dutch (like the British, a fellow colonial power in Asia) and did everything he could to help the foundation of the Indonesian nation state.
After Mao proclaimed the People’s Republic in October 1949, the cabinet papers tell us that Chifley and Evatt were both well advanced in their preparations to recognise the new Chinese Government – except Menzies won in December, the “red peril” overtook all regional strategic logic and we lost 23 years in our engagement with the country destined to become the new superpower of the 21st Century.
In the decades since then, we’ve seen great progress under Whitlam, Hawke and Keating.
That policy of engagement continued into the Government I was privileged to lead as Prime Minister and until recently served in as Foreign Minister.
But the truth is there is much more to be done if we are to secure our future in this century of the Asia-Pacific.
Strategically, we have made considerable advances. Our engagement with regional institutions such as ASEAN, the ASEAN regional forum, APEC and now the expanded East Asian Summit have begun to construct a regional architecture in Asia which is better placed to help us avoid the calamities that we saw in Europe seen in centuries past.
In these many initiatives, Australia has prosecuted an activist diplomacy.
Australia was ASEAN’s first external dialogue partner. Australian diplomacy was at the forefront in the establishment of the ARF.
This was the same with APEC. We were also a foundation member of the EAS and Australian diplomacy has driven the expansion of the EAS to effectively form an Asia Pacific community by another name.
Still, many strategic tensions remain. We are all familiar with the unresolved territorial disputes that stretch from Japan’s northern territories through the East China Sea, the Taiwan Straits, the South China Sea, the Thai-Cambodian border, the Sino-Indian border as well as the decades long disputes over Kashmir.
And on top of these, there are the new generation security challenges involving human trafficking, people smuggling, other forms of international organised crime, terrorism as well as cyber security.
The challenges are vast, although we should not be mean-spirited in recognising the progress that has occurred, reflecting the fact that it is now 30 years since the region has seen any significant interstate conflict.
Economically, the regional story, and Australia’s participation in that story, is even better known.
Over the decades ahead, Asia will host five of the largest economies in the world in China, India, Japan, Indonesia and possibly Korea.
Australia is currently Asia’s fourth largest economy, after China, Japan and India.
Eight of our 10 top trading partners lie in Asia.
Asia is now challenging Europe and the United States as a growing source of international inbound investment.
Australia’s overall national economic wellbeing is now overwhelmingly tied to the nations and economies to our north.
A further positive dimension in Australia’s engagement with our region has come about through our immigration policy and a long tradition, largely bipartisan, (although sometimes only honoured in the breach) which is literally changing the face of modern day Australia.
We are rightly proud of the fact that our country’s political institutions and intellectual culture are derived from Western civilisation.
Our traditions of the rule of law administered by an independent judiciary, of liberal democracy and of a market economy all derived from this civilizational tradition.
In fact, it has been the existence of these institutions, combined with our relative economic success, and our openness as a society, which has caused many to come to these shores over the decades to make Australia their home.
Australia has been greatly enriched by this multiculturalism - our economy, our people to people links and the continued creativity which comes from settler societies which comfortably accommodate new waves of immigration into our increasingly dynamic cultural melting pot.
One of the areas where more work needs to be done lies in our national understanding of the languages, cultures and the arts of the high civilisations of our wider region which we blissfully describe as “Asia”.
The beginning of wisdom lies in understanding the minds of others. How reality is viewed. How ideas are formed from deep philosophical systems that bare little relationship to our own.  Our beliefs are derived from ancient religious traditions, the vast majority of which pre date western Christianity. And how all of the above influenced, different literatures, historiographies, art forms – not to mention the media.
It is in this area that we, as an outpost of the Occidental world, need to do more work in understanding the minds (plural, not just the mind, singular) of Asia.
Some will ask why is this important. Surely English is now the universal language. Surely the elites of Asia are all studying English. Surely the bulk of these elites are being educated in western academic institutions.
At best this reflects only part of the picture and, I would submit, a declining part of the picture.  The truth is, the bulk of the intellectual discourse, political and policy debate as well as economic exchange within Asia occurs in languages other than English.
The truism remains true; Chinese has for a long time been the largest internet language in the world. There are some 300 million users of the Chinese equivalent of Twitter today- through the Chinese Weibo.
This is also now the cultural and linguistic medium of much of the Chinese Diaspora.
Furthermore, there are the cultural assumptions that lie behind English as spoken by non-native speakers in Asia as opposed to English is spoken in the Anglo-Saxon world of the US, the UK or Australia. It is just plain wrong to assume that this will necessarily be the case. The truth is, a lot is simply lost in translation.
But to return to the question that I’ve already proposed- does this really matter?
It matters in the sense that there is a grave danger that individuals, corporations and nations simply talk past each other; thinking that they are talking about the same concept, when in fact that may only be partly the case.
Witness for example the extraordinary national and international debate that has occurred around the Chinese expression “Taoguang Yanghui”. This has been long translated in the West “hide your strength, bide your time” as the best explanation for Deng Xiaoping’s maxim for how China should implement its modernisation program without causing the rest of the world to take fright.
The Chinese interpretation of these four characters is much more benign than that which is rendered by the English translation- a translation which infers that the Chinese are craftily building up their own strength, but will not fully deploy it until they are well and truly ready, and in the meantime either underplay or simply obscure the national wealth and power they have already obtained.
If ever there has literally been a debate that has been “lost in translation” it’s this one.
So much so that China’s leading policy official Dai Bingguo dedicated the better part of an entire article in Foreign Affairs magazine on what Deng really meant and what China really means by this vexed expression “Taoguang Yanghui”.
If this is where we’ve got to on such a critical strategic concept involving intense inter-state dialogue between international elites with squadrons of simultaneous interpreters and translators at the ready, then pity the rest of us.
How much is literally being “lost in translation” in straightforward transactions between individuals, corporations and governments, not to mention the media, everyday around China, Asia and the world.
The capacity for misunderstandings and missed opportunities are profound.
There is a further factor as well. It is simply a mark of respect to take seriously the languages, cultures and deep civilisational traditions of your principal interlocutors.
It is part and parcel of decent human behaviour.
It should also be part and parcel for decent international behaviour.
We seem to be taking a very long time to reach the conclusion that sometime in the next decade, for the first time in 200 years, a non western, non English speaking, non democracy will become the largest economy in the world.
In fact it will be the first time in 500 years that a non Western country has achieved that status.
Finally there is the personal dimension to it all. It is infinitely easier to build a personal relationship with someone from another culture if you are able to speak their language.
This builds on the question of respect that I have just referred to. Common language enables a greater intimacy in relationships- relationships that may well help in building broader economic and political relationships into the future.
This does not mean that by speaking the same languages as the rest of the region that Australians would instantaneously achieve agreement with their Asian neighbours on all aspects of their relationship.
In fact in certain cases, common language may assist in understanding where real differences (as opposed to artificial differences) may lie, and how to most effectively deal with those differences.
There are, therefore, a number of linguistic, cultural and civilisational assumptions about how we in Australia and we in the broader west do business in the future that are going to come under increasing challenge.
As Prime Minister and as Foreign Minister, I often argued that the best vision for Australia was for us to become the most China-literate and Asia-literate country in the 21st century – the China Century, the Asian Century.
But are we producing enough Australians with the linguistic and cultural skills (including in terms of this paper, the performing arts) to substantiate this claim? The truth is that we are not.
The most recently available statistics suggest that in fact over the last decade we have headed in the reverse direction. If we look at the number of primary and secondary schools teaching the 4 principal languages of Asia, the figures are concerning.
Research by the Asia Education Foundation shows that between the year 2000 and 2008 there was:
  • A reduction from 569 schools teaching Chinese to 380 or so;
  • From 2276 schools teaching Japanese in 2000, down to 1921 in 2008;
  • In the case of Indonesian language 1795 schools to 1077 schools; and
  • In the teaching of Korean, we have actually gone up (but don’t hold your breath) from 42 schools in 2000 to 46 schools in 2008.
If we then go to the number of students learning the four principal languages, the picture is also concerning.
  • In Japanese, the number of students has gone down from 419 488 to 351 579;
  • In Indonesian, the number of students has gone down from 265 366 to 191 316;
  • In Korean, the number of students has actually gone down from 3672 to 3190; and
  • In Chinese, while the number of schools teaching Chinese has gone down, there has nonetheless been a modest increase in the number of students studying Chinese from 78 765 to 92 931.
As data becomes available, we will have to look at what changes have occurred between 2008 and today. I suspect there will be continuing problems, but the figures should help to focus our minds.
Then there is the question of whether our state education systems have appropriately linked feeder primary schools with high schools specialising in the same languages that kids have done earlier on.
There is the further question of the inter-linkages between year 12 level attainments by students in these principal Asian languages, and what then is on offer at university level.
Another question arises in terms of the quality of our language graduates in our schools and post-secondary school systems.
This in turn raises parallel questions about the level of fluency of Asian language teachers in Australia and whether we are making the best use of native speakers who may not be fully qualified as general teachers.
Then there is the real question of the adequacy of curriculum and the fairness of assessment systems both at the high school and university levels when it comes to comparing native and non-native speakers, including the proper classification of non-native speakers who may only have partial fluency. Many Australian students, their teachers and their parents are often discouraged by the ability of their children to get a decent grading in an Asian language taken to year 12 level, particularly when these gradings may count to university entry.
Another question arising in the university sector is whether the specialist study of Asia (including the relevance of Asia to other university disciplines on offer) is being appropriately supported. This goes to the question of specialist skills in Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Indonesian language, literature and history. But equally critical, the role of these countries in mainstream university disciplines in economics, law, political science, and business.
My friends in the University sector tell me are now confronting something of a crisis across the nation’s universities in the study of Asia – running in precisely the reverse direction to what Australian will actually require for our future.
There is also a much deeper crisis in the lack of Australian student interest in studying in the principal academic institutions of Asia.
We may have hundreds of thousands of Asian students studying in Australia. But the truth is we barely have even hundreds of students studying in the elite tertiary intuitions of our region.
This is limiting significantly Australia’s future, not least because the political, business and social networks created out of the major universities of Asia will have a very limited Australian alumni.
Of course all these are questions which are raised on the supply side. The refrain is often heard; “what about the demand side?” and whether businesses and governments are appropriately emphasising the employment of graduates with Asia-specific cultural and linguistic expertise?
Once again the answer is apparently no. Yet peak industry bodies are apparently regularly telling universities that they (the universities) are not producing enough such graduates for the future needs of industry.
This in turns creates confusion for both students and parents who fear that even if their children slog away at school and university on one of the more difficult languages of Asia, that this will not necessarily equip them for a decent career.
The fact is something is not quite working out there between the supply and the demand side of Asian language and Asian studies graduates. And we need to get to the bottom of why that is the case.
It is for these reasons that I propose to speak on these questions at some greater length throughout the course of this year.
In doing so, I hope to be able to promote an intelligent national discussion on what we should then do to lift our national game.
And in that sense, I’m not remotely interested in the traditional “blame game” of blaming one level of Government or the other; state education bureaucracies or teachers; academic institutions or the business community, we all need a clearer handle on what is to be done.
And all this of course is directly relevant to the future of the arts and the performing arts as well – as we seek to encourage more Australian creative artists to study, to work and to tour in Asia rather than simply the capitals of Europe and North America.
The paper of course goes to specific institutional and funding models as to how this might all be achieved for the performing arts. I do not propose to enter that debate here this evening. Rather, what I have sought to do is to locate this debate within the broader national discussion that is necessary on how well prepared Australia really is for the Asian Century that lies before us.
All this is relevant in turn to what the Government is currently examining though its white paper process. For Australia, these are important challenges.
And in the case of the languages and cultures of our wider region, it is critical to understanding difference, understanding the minds of our interlocutors, and therefore in helping forge common futures for us all – common futures which are both prosperous and peaceful, and, in the spirit of this occasion, inspiring, innovative and creative.