Julia Gillard has cast engagement with Asia alongside the biggest challenges to Australia since settlement - "the next chapter in our story".
"While Australia was changing – Asia was changing too," she told a Sydney audience this afternoon launching a new blueprint for ties to the neighbourhood.
"Whatever else this century brings, it will bring Asia’s return to global leadership, Asia’s rise. This is not only unstoppable, it is gathering pace."
Flanked by several cabinet ministers and former Prime Minister Bob Hawke, Ms Gillard confronted old notions low wages in Asia was a threat to Australian workers.
Strong focus on Asia in the education system is a major focus.
"Above all, success for an open Australia in a middle-class Asia starts in the classrooms, training centres and lecture theatres of our nation," she said.
"Unlike in ages past, we will not settle for a student sitting at the back of the class not learning and then drifting away from school early. We can no longer tell ourselves this is all ok because a manual job will materialise for the child who cannot read, write or count."
Ms Gillard painted Australia as a friend to all countries, while acknowledging the potential for friction.
"We are supporting the stabilising presence of the United States, a strong Defence Force, building habits of trust and co-operation in our region," she said.
"We have an ally in Washington – respect in Beijing – and more, an open door in Jakarta and Delhi, Tokyo and Seoul."