Australia’s Asian White Paper – A Great Blast Of Nothing

Posted on Tue 10/30/2012 by


By Andrew Bolt ~

TonyfromOz prefaces…..

Late on Sunday, Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the release of this latest White Paper, this one titled ‘The Asian Century’. Wide ranging and often rambling, one of the prime targets is Education, and the aspirations of this Labor Government to widen considerably the teaching of Asian languages in school, some as early as the early years of primary School, the concentration being on Chinese Mandarin and Hindi, the major language of India, as well as Indonesian. While foreign languages have been taught, mainly in High School, this paper suggests that children should start learning these languages a lot earlier, probably in the early years of Primary School. In early days, French was the most taught language at school, and for students to gain a proficiency in the language enough to pass final exams, that process took around 600 hours. The process of teaching Mandarin to children to a level for them to speak and understand it proficiently, competent enough to pass final exams will take around 2,400 hours. Where this extra time comes from, who knows, but one suggestion from the Prime Minister is that children will log on to the Internet via their computers at home out of school hours for an hour or two each day to to continue learning the language. Yeah! That’s going to happen, right!

Terry McCrann on the Gillard Government’s Blank Paper on Asia:

JULIA Gillard’s Asian Century White Paper is a bizarre cocktail of the statement of the bleeding obvious, and a damning, if totally unintentional, critique of her government, its policies and its politics

[Its author] is former treasury secretary Ken Henry, [whose] more famous quote was his “go hard, go early and go to households” advice to then-PM Kevin Rudd in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis…

Henry’s belief in the great wisdom and efficacy of his advice, apparently lives on, as an interesting sentence in the White Paper all-too-revealingly shows.

Extolling Australia’s great economic strengths, Henry attributes it to good decisions made over decades; “including Australia’s world-beating actions to avoid the worst impacts of the Global Financial Crisis.”

World-beating? Isn’t that a tad effusive, Ken? …

The opening sentences of the executive summary pretty much captured the flavour of the White Paper, and told you all you needed to know about its content.

“Asia’s rise is changing the world. This is the defining feature of the 21st century – the Asian century. These developments have profound implications for people everywhere.”

What, did Henry buy the sentences at banality template central?…

OK, grant the necessity of stating the basic reality. But it’s followed by statement after statement after statement of the bleeding obvious. We need to “build on our strengths,” do even more to “develop our capabilities,” we need “highly innovative, competitive Australian firms,” etc etc etc.

But the really good stuff is when you get really shallow into the paper, to the 25 national objectives for, what else, 2025. Get it? Get it? It’s a good thing the ideas didn’t run out at 24…

They’re not so much targets, as pick-a-number wish lists, mixed up with utterly fatuous advice, delivered with all the pompous certainty that could only come from an ivory tower, and a Canberra one at that.

Hands off, says business:

Business leaders have warned the Gillard government against imposing a quota on Australia’s top 200 publicly listed companies that would require one-third of board members to have “deep experience” in Asia.

The call was made in the government’s Asian Century white paper for boards by 2025. Don Argus, a former BHP Billiton chairman, dismissed any notion of quotas, which he said could inadvertently hurt boardroom skills.

“I wouldn’t compromise on skills,” said Mr Argus… .”You’re starting to get to a doctrinaire state when you start dealing with quotas and that sort of stuff. If you don’t get the right skills you’re not getting the right input.”

Where’s the money, ask the states:

REALISING the education ambitions contained in Julia Gillard’s Asia white paper could cost billions of dollars, with a leading vice-chancellor predicting the government would have to find an extra $10 billion a year in research funding if it were to double the number of Australian universities in the global top 100.

The goal of bringing the four priority Asian languages into Australian school classrooms could also be a significant expense, with key Asian education research groups predicting it would require thousands of extra teachers and cost billions of dollars…

As Ms Gillard and new Asian Century Minister Craig Emerson began selling their vision for Australia to unlock the gains of Asia’s burgeoning middle class, the states lashed out at the federal government’s decision to link Gonski funding to the teaching of Asian languages.

Dr Emerson said yesterday the states would be denied education funding under the $6.5bn Gonski funding model if they did not supply the teachers needed to provide all students with the ability to access at least one “priority” Asian language…

The three biggest Coalition states reacted angrily to Dr Emerson’s comments on school funding, with Victoria accusing the government of blackmailing them, NSW questioning how more reforms could be tied to the “mythical” Gonski funding, which has yet to be negotiated with the states, and Queensland saying the plan was “light on detail”.

Andrew Bolt is a journalist and columnist writing for The Herald Sun in Melbourne Victoria Australia.

Andrew Bolt’s columns appear in Melbourne’s Herald Sun, Sydney’s Daily Telegraph and Adelaide’s Advertiser. He runs the most-read political blog in Australia and hosts Channel 10’s The Bolt Report each Sunday at 10am. He is also heard from Monday to Friday at 8am on the breakfast show of radio station MTR 1377, and his book  Still Not Sorry remains very widely read.

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