On 28th October 2012, Australia's Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, launched the Australian government white paper Australia in the Asian Century. The white paper lays out a comprehensive plan for Australian development in the next 13 years to see Australia take advantage of its position at the edge of Asia.
The Prime Minister's office released a statement which said 'in this century, the region in which we live will become home to most of the world's middle class and will be the world's largest producer of goods and services and the largest consumer of them'. 'There are significant opportunities and challenges for all Australians', it continues.
Australia's Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen MP, said that Australia intended to attract highly skilled Asian immigrants in order to boost the economy. He said 'we need migrants who bring their specialist skills to Australia.'
Mr Bowen said that seven of the top ten source countries for immigrants to Australia are in Asia. India provided Australia with 23% of its immigrants last year. China, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, South Korea and Vietnam are also in the top ten.
Mr Bowen said that nearly a quarter of first generation Australians were born in an Asian country and there are 1.5 million Australian citizens who are fluent in an Asian language such as Cantonese, Vietnamese, Hindi, Punjabi, Indonesian, Korean, Tagalog, or Japanese. 'This means that Australia is uniquely placed to strengthen ties with Asian nations,' Mr Bowen said.
Mr Bowen did not announce any increase in targets for immigration from Asian countries but Australia is already engaged in an active immigration programme and the government predicts that 209,000 people will settle in Australia in 2014/15.
Mr Bowen said that the government would also be taking steps to encourage more tourism from Asian countries. It will focus particularly on China.
He said that Australia will also take steps to increase the numbers of international students at Australian universities by streamlining the student visa assessment process and by improving the standards of education at Australian universities.
Mr Bowen said 'The rise of Australia's close neighbours has the potential to greatly benefit our nation over the coming century.'
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