The Pacific Island Forum (and here) meeting is getting underway In Auckland. An editorial in the New Zealand Herald provides a good summary of the importance of this meeting marked as it is by an unusually large presence of world leaders.
One initiative to be announced is a new schools program. I quote from the New Zealand Herald story:
Over the next four years New Zealand will fund an extra $145 million and Australia $158 million to address the large numbers of kids that do not go to school.
The target is to enrol half of the one million school-aged children not going to school for at least six years of schooling. They have also set a literacy goal for 2021 - of getting 75 per cent of all children in the region to be able to read by the age of 10.
As well as the rise in basic education funding, New Zealand will also spend $122 million in scholarships and training over the same period.
In an apparent segue, Peter Martin and David Cohen had an interesting post on the interpreter, an interview with Tang Qifang, Asia specialist at the foreign ministry-affiliated China Institute of International Studies: Through Chinese eyes: Tang Qifang (part 1).
I found it interesting in general, I know far less than I should about Chinese foreign policy, but I was also struck by the references to Indonesia and ASEAN. I quote:
From Linda: how does China assess Indonesia's current trajectory in the international arena? How would China hope to see Indonesia's role develop in Southeast Asia and further afield?
Indonesia is the biggest country in Southeast Asia, and it has always wanted to take a key role in the region. But the leadership of the ASEAN countries is not really held by any certain country. Although Indonesia is very big and very important, not only in Southeast Asia, but in the Asia-Pacific region, but so far it hasn't managed to take as important a role as it wants to. Maybe that's why Indonesia is very eager to make active communications not only in Southeast Asia but also in other areas of international cooperation, and we can see that especially in climate change, where Indonesia takes a very active role.
From Ho Yi Jian: Could you describe the state of Southeast Asian expertise in China?
In China, frankly speaking, I don't think there's enough expertise in Southeast Asia is to support the corporations and the government. There are specialists in Southeast Asian languages, for example, in the foreign languages universities, but most of them only specialize in language. There is also very important expertise in the provinces near to Southeast Asian countries, like Guangxi province, and Yunnan province, and Guizhou province, because they have the advantage of communication. Of course, there are some military institutes, but they are secret. They're very powerful, but we don't know what they are doing. Even I don't know. They do very good research, but we cannot share them.
Just last month I attended an academic conference, and someone said that Southeast Asian countries are not as important to China as in the past, that China is not just a power in East Asia, but also in the Asia Pacific, so it should focus on dealing with other big powers, like the US, like Japan, even countries in Latin America. I will never agree with this kind of analysis — I think your closest neighbors should be your closest friends.
In Australia's case, ASEAN and the Pacific Forum countries are Australia's closest neighbours. I have argued before that Australia has been neglectful of both groups and especially Indonesia within ASEAN. If you like, we are doing a China and for the same reasons.
I note here that in a story in the Australia on 27 August 2011, Northern neglect: bring education to south east asia, says Woolcott, Richard Woolcott argued in the context of higher education that Australia was neglecting its near north and especially Indonesia. There is something of an irony here that, in relative terms "White Australia" educated far more Indonesians than "modern multicultural Australia" and did so at the Australian taxpayers' expense. To provide a perspective on this, I quote from another story in the Australian:
AUSTRALIA'S university sector is seen as a shop and no longer as a bridge between cultures, according to distinguished Indonesian academic Sangkot Marzuki.
Professor Marzuki said this was one reason for the low level of scientific and research collaboration between the two countries.
"When I came 40 years ago to Australia, I came looking for a better education," he said. "Now Indonesians see Australia as a shop to buy a degree and to earn the opportunity to get a good job."
Professor Marzuki, a Monash University alumnus who has spent half his career in Australia, spoke last week at a University of Sydney forum on education and development in the Asia-Pacific.
"There was a change, about 30 years ago, where Australia suddenly saw higher education as a commodity rather than before that as a bridge between two cultures," he told the HES.
Under the 1951 Colombo Plan, the Australian taxpayer helped to educate more than 40,000 students from the region as part of an attempt to promote stability and development. "All of us who went to Australia [before the commercialised era in higher education] feel very grateful," Professor Marzuki said. This had a value in terms of diplomacy, he said.
To put a purely personal perspective on this, I know my daughters' friends really well. Both are at university now. I started at university in 1963, forty eight years ago, something I find a little frightening. Their Australian friends are much more ethnically mixed than my equivalent group, reflecting the changes in the composition of Australian society. Yet for every overseas Asian student that they are friends with, I was friendly with twenty. They simply have less contact, less opportunity for contact, than I did.
If China is neglecting South-East Asia in relative terms, it is still active there and in the Pacific. That is one of the challenges Australia faces in foreign policy terms. How does the country deal with this?
Another important challenge lies in the inevitable Pacificisation of Australia. Back in August 2007 in Pacific Perspective - Pasifika and New Zealand's Future, I looked at this process in a New Zealand context. The same process is happening in Australia, although Australia's larger size makes the process slower.
Australia already has large groups from Pacific Island countries. We will continue to attract migrants direct and via New Zealand. If some of the worst case scenarios happen - climate change or state collapse in Papua New Guinea - the flow could become a flood.
I haven't attempted to quantify scope, but my gut feeling is that those from Pacific Forum countries and their children excluding non-Maori New Zealand could well exceed one million within ten years.
In December 2009, an article in the New Zealand Herald reported estimated that 126,000 of the 765,000 people in the world with Maori ancestry, one in six, now lived in Australia. To this we have to add groups from all the Pacific Forum countries.
I have no personal problems with this. It will certainly help us in the Rugby!
In a largely unrecognised way, Australia and New Zealand's provision of economic aid and especially educational assistance to Pacific Forum countries is actually enhancing the skills of those who will come to both countries in the future. I think that's important.
Let me finish with some statistics that I found surprising. If we look just at Papua and New Guinea, Department of Immigration and Citizenship statistics suggest that in 2006 Australia had 20,402 PNG born residents. That's lower than I would have expected and is likely to change significantly over the next ten years. However, it's not that that surprised me.
- The main languages spoken at home by Papua New Guinea-born people in Australia were English (79.7 per cent), Cantonese (6.0 per cent) and Pidgin, nfd (3.8 per cent). Cantonese! That's a reflection of the migration to Australia of PNG's Chinese ethnic population after independence.
- At the time of the 2006 Census, the median individual weekly income for the Papua New Guinea-born in Australia aged 15 years and over was $593, compared with $431 for all overseas-born and $488 for all Australia-born. So the children of PNG immigrants did better than the Australian average.
- At the 2006 Census, 58.8 per cent of the Papua New Guinea-born aged 15 years and over had some form of higher non school qualifications compared to 52.5 per cent of the Australian population. So our PNG immigrants were better educated than the Australian average.
- Among Papua New Guinea-born people aged 15 years and over at the 2006 census, the participation rate in the labour force was 73.3 per cent and the unemployment rate was 5.1 per cent. The corresponding rates in the total Australian population were 64.6 and 5.2 per cent respectively. Again, the PNG immigrants did better in workforce terms than the rest of Australia.
Looking at the stats, I really hadn't expected PNG migrants to be doing, on average, better than the rest of the Australian population.