SENATOR THE HON PENNY WONG

LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE

SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS

SENATOR FOR SOUTH AUSTRALIA

MEDIA RELEASE

30 October 2018

FUTUREASIA: STRENGTHENING AUSTRALIA’S DIPLOMATIC ENGAGEMENT IN THE INDO-PACIFIC

A Shorten Labor Government will strengthen Australia’s engagement in the Indo-Pacific region by establishing four new diplomatic posts and establishing a new category of geo-economic counsellor across our diplomatic network.

Australia’s diplomatic effort is under-resourced for a country of our economic weight and status. While it has started to be rebuilt in recent years, we still need to invest more in our diplomatic efforts.

As a part of Labor’s FutureAsia plan, we will establish four new posts in the Indo-Pacific region. Given the growing importance of Australia’s relationship with Indonesia, a new post there will be a priority.

Labor will also establish a new category of geo-economic counsellor across our diplomatic network. Bangkok, Beijing, Hanoi, Jakarta, New Delhi, Tokyo and Washington will be important initial locations.

These new positions will identify improved ways of connecting and leveraging Australian private sector and civil society activities in the interests of broader foreign policy objectives.

They will also help to ensure our development, trade and diplomatic policies are integrated and that our development assistance programs across the region are visible to and coordinated with the various Australian enterprises operating there.

Labor will also provide an additional $4 million to expand the existing Australian Cultural Diplomacy Grants program.

This additional funding will focus on Australia’s cultural activities in Asia and the Pacific – helping to present to the region an accurate image of who we are. It will also support more exchanges and partnerships with arts organisations here in Australia to promote greater collaboration in both performance and production.

One year ago, Labor announced a comprehensive policy approach to a deeper Asian engagement called FutureAsia.

A Shorten Labor Government is determined to do more than pay lip-service to the Asian century. At a time when Scott Morrison is using foreign policy as a political tool, Labor is doing the work to put in place the foundations for a more prosperous relationship with our region.

Labor has continued to develop a fundamental whole-of-government, nationwide strategy to deepen and broaden our engagement with Asia.
These announcements build on our existing FutureAsia commitments aimed at elevating Australia’s relationship with the Indo-Pacific including:

  • Boosting the Asian capability of Australian boards, working with the Australian Institute of Company Directors.
  • Establishing the Australian-ASEAN Studies Centre.
  • Holding meetings of Asia-Pacific Finance Ministers in advance of the G20 Finance Ministers meeting.
  • Holding an annual 2 +2 of Australian and Indonesian Finance and Trade Ministers.
  • Making Asian languages and literacy a national priority.
  • Invest $32 million to strengthen Asian language and literacy education in schools.
  • The development of a government-backed infrastructure investment facility to help meet the immense development needs of the Pacific and cement Australia’s role in the region.

At a time of great disruption, and increasing focus on our region, Labor believes it is more important than ever that we have the capabilities and people on the ground to manage co-operative activities, strengthen engagement and realise our national interests.

Authorised by Noah Carroll, ALP, Canberra.