Canberra Retreat 2011 - Developing an Australian ʻAsia-Planʼ
The 2011 Asialink Leaders retreat took place in Canberra from 11-15 September 2011Reports from Past Retreats: 2010 | 2009
Professor Anthony Milner AM
Basham Professor of Asian History, Australian National University
This year's Retreat focused on the need for an Australian 'Asia strategy'. The point was made that it is no longer enough to speak about enhancing our 'engagement with Asia'. Building Australia into the region is a complex task. The dynamics of the region - including the rivalry and tension that sometimes characterizes national relationships - place high demands on Australian diplomacy. In discussions with Ambassadors and High Commissioners, Australian political leaders from the Government and Opposition, senior Australian officials and analysts from the media and academia, the Retreat examined Australian relations with China, Japan, India and ASEAN - and considered how initiatives developed in one direction can influence perceptions in another.
The Retreat examined possible strategies for handling the competing demands, and also reflected on Australia's current skill-set capacity to develop an effective 'Asia plan'. The Retreat's theme, as it turned out, could not have been more topical. Within a few days after our meetings the Prime Minister announced the commissioning of a White Paper to "help Australia navigate the Asian Century".