Eighteen trillion dollars. Yes, “trillion” dollars. That is the broadly accepted working estimate of the amount needed for vital economic infrastructure such as roads, ports, and rail facilities among Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation group partners. And that’s just in the current decade to 2020.
It is a staggering sum even considering the large populations and massive growth often associated with this part of the world. For Australia, such an explosion of capital investment portends great opportunities and suggests that in addition to the mining boom, we are situated precisely where you would want to be as the locus of global power swings decidedly eastward.
For the pan-Eurasian colossus of Russia, this tectonic shift is being adapted to with maximum haste because geographically, if not culturally, the former super-power has a foot in both camps. The Russian capital may be closer to western European centres like Helsinki and Stockholm, but its vast territory extends to a coastline nine flying hours and eight time zones to the east. Which is why its President Vladimir Putin, who returned to the top job earlier this year, is now so eager to stress his country’s Asian links.
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When I told the ABC’s political correspondent Louise Yaxley that President Vladimir Putin was approaching our table, she steadfastly refused to turn around, convinced she was the victim of some B-grade schoolyard trickery.
And who could blame her?
The Russian strongman, a political rockstar in this country, was already all around us on giant TV screens as we sat in the lavish, if hastily constructed, Far Eastern Federal University. Leaders virtually never make unscheduled appearances in the media centres of these big summits and never ever eat at the cafeteria.
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Two years ago, the freshly minted Julia Gillard PM declared from Europe’s bureaucratic capital that she was a home girl at heart.
“I’m just going to be really up-front about this - foreign policy is not my passion. It’s not what I’ve spent my life doing,” she had said.
“So, yes, if I had a choice I’d probably more be in a school watching kids learn to read in Australia than here in Brussels at international meetings.”
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Australian Ambassador to Japan, Murray McLean OAM, caught up with Thom Woodroofe at APEC this week and discussed the prospect of him moving to be our man in Beijing, and the behaviour of the Chinese at Copenhagen last year .
Reports in the Australian Financial Review last weekend suggested that Murray McLean is on the shortlist to be our head diplomat in Beijing.
While the job has been advertised internally in DFAT, the mandarin speaking Ambassador humbly brushed off the suggestion he was being considered for the shift to China. He says he will go “wherever the government wants him to go” when his term expires “sometime in 2011”, but he may be asked to pack his bags for Beijing before then.
Ambassador McLean has been our main man in Tokyo for almost six years now, a lengthy appointment by any measure. But his CV oozes China.
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Seventy-two channels, and still nothing on, wise-cracked the US entertainer, Bob Hope back in the 1970s.
Decades later, in this era of multi-media platforms, some people might lament that Hope didn’t know the half of it. The big challenge now, with all the information coming in, is to grade it - to pick the significant, from the loud but unimportant.
In politics, this challenge has always been there but having more information on what voters think may have made the job harder, not easier. Scandals are dissected, polls and focus group research consumed and interpreted, trends identified, and conclusions reached.
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