Aug 14, 2017

Private Members’ Business – 50th Anniversary of ASEAN

Federation Chamber

Mr ALBANESE (Grayndler) (18:15): I rise to support the motion on ASEAN moved by the member for Bruce, and I congratulate him on this initiative. This year marks 50 years since the Association of Southeast Asian Nations was founded. Since its inception, ASEAN’s membership has grown and today it includes Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Australia’s relationship with ASEAN dates back more than 40 years to 1974, when we became its very first dialogue partner—yet another groundbreaking, international initiative of the Whitlam government.

In the past 50 years, the world has seen a great deal of change in a number of areas—improved outcomes in health and education, a great many people lifted out of poverty, massive advancements in technology and changes to the pattern of human migration. Throughout these decades, ASEAN has promoted peace and stability in an extraordinarily large region, and it should be congratulated for this. The rewards of this effort can be seen in the region’s economic growth. In the years from 2001 to 2014, ASEAN’s combined GDP rose threefold to approximately $2.5 trillion. Today, ASEAN collectively is one of our largest trading partners and the importance of our strategic partnership with ASEAN cannot be understated.

It is a very simple fact that Australia must be engaged in this part of the world. To put it in context, ASEAN’s combined population of more than 620 million is larger than the European Union or North America, and 65 per cent of this population is under 35 years old. What’s more, ASEAN is home to a rising middle class, which has more and more money to spend and therefore contribute to the Australian national economy. This is particularly important, given the role that tourism plays. Tourism has been identified by Deloitte Access Economics as one of five supergrowth sectors. It supports more than one million jobs and generates nearly $100 billion in economic activity. The 2018 ASEAN-Australia Special Summit is the first of its kind and will provide an unprecedented opportunity to showcase our nation to the ASEAN members and dialogue partners. It is being held in Sydney.

As we continue to grow our relationship with ASEAN, it’s clear tourism is one important beneficiary. Indeed, of Tourism Australia’s 16 core markets, three of these—Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia—are part of ASEAN. We have been fortunate to see international visitors from these countries increasingly choose Australia as their tourist destination. For the year ending March 2017, the number of visitors to Australia from Singapore rose seven per cent, from Malaysia 11 per cent and from Indonesia 18 per cent—an excellent testimony to the relationship Australia has with the people of these nations.

We should also look to ASEAN for best practice when it comes to our shared challenges. The fact is there’s much we can learn from each other. Urbanisation is one such example. I visited Singapore earlier this year to look at their urban policy. As a city state, Singapore is leading the world in many areas, and one of the areas is the rollout of high-speed broadband, where they actually used the Australian model as an example—except that they kept going with it and didn’t abandon it for a third-rate copper network.

As the member for Grayndler, the fact is I’m very fortunate to represent an electorate that is a melting pot of multiculturalism. Our multiculturalism, language skills and relationship with the region can be a great source of not just social and cultural benefit but also benefit to our economy. More than 1.3 million Australian residents were either born in ASEAN countries or have South-East Asian ancestry. We all benefit from the fact that Australia is a dialogue partner with ASEAN. I look forward to seeing Australia deepen its collaboration in the coming years, and I congratulate ASEAN on this important celebration of 50 years.