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Kevin Rudd นายกฯออสซี่คนใหม่ ผู้นำต.ต.คนแรกที่พูดภาษาเอเชียได้ ! (The Age)  (อ่าน 491 ครั้ง)
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« เมื่อ: 05-12-2007, 19:48 »

Rudd will bring us greater acceptance in Asia

Michael Backman
December 5, 2007




There are lessons for other countries in the opportunities Australia offers its citizens.

KEVIN Rudd as Prime Minister is likely to improve significantly Australia's standing in Asia. Many ordinary people in Asia do not understand Australia. They are aware of its development, prosperity and civility and so the one criticism they are likely to level is that Australians are racist.

This accusation continues despite the fact that each year many thousands of Malaysians, Singaporeans, Indonesians and others apply to migrate to Australia and that about a million Australians are ancestrally from Asia.


John Howard's comment that Australia could serve as the deputy sheriff of the US in Asia did not help. He had a certain awkwardness in Asia. I remember attending one speech he gave in Jakarta, in which he referred to the local currency as the rupee rather than the rupiah. The assembled expatriate Australians collectively groaned. For Howard, it was as if learning the detail wasn't worth the effort.

But Kevin Rudd is different. He has lived and worked in Asia. Not only does he speak Mandarin, he speaks it better than most Chinese. According to a recent Chinese Government survey, only 53% of mainland Chinese can speak standard Mandarin and then most do so with a regional accent.

The rest speak dialects that largely are unintelligible to Mandarin speakers. And outside China, Mandarin speakers tend to speak with localised accents. Rudd's Mandarin is superior to that spoken by Singapore's leaders, for example, which is a nice turnaround given that Singapore's leaders are fond of lecturing Australia about Asia.

But importantly, Rudd's ability to understand China does not mean that he will be pro-China.

Having worked in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, he will have a good knowledge of China's defence arrangements, human rights issues and how the Communist Party functions and sets policy. This close working knowledge of China will be invaluable, given that it is set to become Australia's largest trading partner by the end of this year or in the first half of next year.

Another virtue of the incoming government with regards to Asia is the appointment of South Australian senator Penny Wong as Minister for Climate Change and Water. It's a serious and a technically complex role. Senator Wong is of Malaysian Chinese origin — she was born in Kota Kinabalu, the capital city of the Malaysia state of Sabah.

What chance would a person of white Australian ancestry have of being made a government minister in racially charged Malaysia? The answer is, of course, none. Senator Wong's appointment shows how race and ethnicity largely are irrelevancies in public life in Australia. Throughout the election campaign, Senator Wong issued media releases condemning the then government for various things and the media reported those remarks. Had Senator Wong issued such statements in Malaysia, the media would have at best ignored her. At worst, she could be facing arrest. So, there will be many in Malaysia who will be utterly dumbfounded by Senator Wong's rise. Welcome to 2007.

But will Australia's economic prosperity be safeguarded by the Labor Government? The reality is that no longer does it really matter who wins government in Western democracies. The momentous battles between central planning and capitalism are long over, as are many of the battles over what type of capitalism we should have. Deregulation, privatisation, and freedom of choice are the order of the day, no matter which side of politics is in.

This was made clear last week when Rudd appointed Lindsay Tanner not only as Finance Minister but as minister with responsibility for government deregulation. This from a Labor government! (It's this same fluidity that now sees Brendan Nelson, former ALP member and former Australian Medial Association head, as Opposition Leader, which means the Liberal Party is now headed by a former trade union official.) In any event, flexible exchange rates and the freedom of movement of capital now mean that governments are very much constrained in their policy choices. Stray too far from market economics and foreign investors will run.

No government can afford that and so they are very much straitjacketed regardless of their rhetoric or pedigree.

This means that in Western democracies today, voters choose not the party with the best policies so much as the party best able to manage the same set of policies. Of course, the parties make an attempt at product differentiation, but really it is a case of a Crunchie versus a Violet Crumble.

And if governments govern well but have been in too long, then the fact of their longevity is one reason to get rid of them, as we saw with the defeat of the Howard government.

Certainly, getting rid of a good but long-serving government is no bad thing. The experience of Asia shows why. The coalition that rules Malaysia has been in power non-stop for 50 years. Several ministers are particularly long-serving. Samy Vellu has been Public Works Minister since 1995. Rafidah Aziz has been Trade and Industry Minister since 1987 — that's an extraordinary 20 years in the one portfolio.

Both these ministers are responsible for allocating millions in contracts each year. One can only imagine the relationships that emerge between contractors and ministers with such longevity. Change ministers and such relationships are reduced. Change governments and all relationships are swept away.

So in this regard, changing governments can help extend prosperity rather than put it at risk. It helps to minimise the risk of corruption. Moreover, governments need to be kept on their toes, or they start to tread on the toes of others. Opposition figures and dissidents in Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Burma, China and North Korea can testify to that.

Perhaps this is something for several of Asia's leaders to think about when they meet Senator Wong at the UN's climate change conference in Bali this week. She will be there as an Australian. As a Malaysian, she would not have had the chance.



http://business.theage.com.au/rudd-will-bring-us-greater-acceptance-in-asia/20071204-1ews.html?page=fullpage#contentSwap1

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