The wealth of individual Australians and the nation as a whole will be boosted dramatically over the next decade through increased engagement with a rapidly rising Asia, a new white paper released today says.
The white paper on Australia in the Asian Century, commissioned by the Prime Minster, Julia Gillard, outlines 25 objectives for the nation to achieve by 2025. This includes every child learning an Asian language and studying Asian culture. The paper aims to exploit the opportunities in a region where the pace and scale of change ''have been staggering''.
''Our goal is to ensure that Australians have higher incomes in a more diverse economy that is resilient in the face of ongoing change,'' the 312-page report says.
But it warns ''all of us will have to work smarter to maximise prosperity and manage challenges''.
It says that by 2025, Australia's average national income could be $73,000 per person, compared with $62,000 now. By the same time, Australia's school system should rate in the world's top five, and 10 Australian universities should be in the global top 100.
The paper was put together by a team led by the former Treasury secretary, Dr Ken Henry and seeks to look beyond Australia's current reliance on Asia for mineral exports - although the paper says the mining boom has a way to go and will be part of the bigger picture.
''Continued economic development in the region will drive demand for energy and resources,'' it says.
But the paper says the opportunities elsewhere are vast.
''The Asian Century offers a wealth of opportunities and career choices in a variety of businesses, including small and medium-sized enterprises, especially for Australia's young people,'' it says.
It identifies sport, tourism, education, the arts, professional, business, banking and financial services, science and technology ''thanks to a growing affluence in Asia''.
It cites that in agriculture alone, rising food demand and a growing middle class create opportunities for Australia ''to be an important supplier of high-value food''. This would require research and investment by producers to boost output.
It places great emphasis on learning Asian languages and says Asian studies ''will be a core part of a national school curriculum''.
All students would be able to learn Chinese, Hindi, Indonesia or Japanese.
''Children in kindergarten now will graduate from high school with a sound working knowledge of Asia,'' Ms Gillard said.
Many of these objectives reflect current government policies such as building the national broadband network, reforming the tax system and adopting measures to maximise the working potential of every adult.
The paper warns against lower wages and conditions just so Australian manufacturing and industry can compete with its neighbours.
The paper stresses that the focus on the region would not be to the detriment of existing relations.
Australia would continue to ''work with the United States to ensure that it continues to have a strong and consistent presence in the region, with our alliance contributing to regional stability, security and peace,'' it says.
At the same time, security and economic prosperity in the region would be well served by Australia promoting cooperative arrangements among major powers including China, Japan, Indonesia and the United States.
Australia's business and public sector leaders would also have to increase their Asia literacy.
The paper says one third of the board members of the nation's top 20 publicly listed companies and Commonwealth authorities ''will have a deep experience in and knowledge of Asia'', as will one third of senior public servants.
It talks of the enormous potential in the Chinese tourism market and the need for greater transparency in screening foreign investment.