How well do you know your neighbours? That’s one of the questions posed by the Griffith Asia Institute’s (GAI) State of the Neighbourhood Report 2019, released at a Committee for Economic Development Australia (CEDA) event in Brisbane on Friday.
Director of GAI Professor Caitlin Byrne said it was more important than ever to remind ourselves where our neighbourhood is, how we engage with it and the opportunities and challenges we all face together.
“Australia is a big island continent. We don’t always think about how we belong in a neighbourhood but there are some real transformations happening in the Asia Pacific region that we need to be aware of and our future, our economic prosperity is increasingly tied to the countries around us,” she told ABC Radio Brisbane host Rebecca Levingston.
“We have to think about a layered neighbourhood and be thinking in concentric circles.
“Our near neighbour, South East Asia and the South West Pacific should be on our radar much more than it really is.”
Professor Byrne was one of ten authors who contributed to the State of the Neighbourhood Report 2019, which also includes a perspective on the region by Rowan Callick, an Industry Fellow at GAI and a columnist for The Australian, among other influential roles.
Callick said while China is an important neighbour, it isn’t the only one to consider.
“China does dominate the conversation. Many people talk about Asia and they use the word Asia but actually they mean the word China,” he said.
“This is a problem. Its is almost as if for some people they can only think of one place in the Indo Pacific and it used to be Japan and now its China.”
He also said we don’t know nearly enough about our Asian neighbours.
“We don’t know very much about them. We need to know a bit more.
“One of the problems is that our business isn’t investing in Asia, and there are many good reasons for that but we just don’t have that kind of experience of our business people, who’ve spent years working there.
“That is particularly a concern in terms of our understanding of China at the moment.
“Our thinking is changing though and there are some interesting trends that are underway.
“We used to focus on the hard edged defence planners and business people who talked about interests all the time but now we have values coming in to place. We must have both, interests and values.”
Callick and Byrne headline a report which offers a fresh perspective on Australia’s Asia-Pacific neighbourhood and hopes to generate deeper conversations about Queensland’s place in the region.
Read the State of the Neighbourhood report 2019 in full online.