The Australia in the Asian Century White Paper which was launched with much fanfare in October 2012 epitomises everything that is wrong about how Australia thinks about its future.
The forecast addition of 3.1 billion new middle class consumers will be the most significant socioeconomic event to occur on our planet this century, yet as part of the former Government's response to it, they chose to ignore 34 per cent of those taking part in it (not to mention the world's non-Asia Pacific rich). For some inexplicable reason, the disproportionate spending habits of North America and Western Europe, as well as the unrealised benefits of socioeconomic development in South America, Eastern Europe, Africa and the Middle East, were all deemed irrelevant to Australia's future when devising a plan for the twenty-first century.
This omission represents an unforgivable lapse in government thinking. It also reveals how badly our leaders are mishandling this century.
In the decades to come, it will not be the scattered momentum of continental Asia which holds the attention of the global community. Nor will it be the lack of it within an ageing and demographically declining Europe. Rather, it will be the relentless and upward surge of Australia.
Much like how the world marvelled at our ability to sail through the GFC without experiencing recession, during this century, Australia's unique identity, capacity for growth, inherent flexibility and seemingly limitless potential will be what truly impresses the world.
Australia's gold rush reprise
In 1851, the discovery of gold in Victoria transformed Australia's weakest colony into the continent's pre-eminent one.
Within ten years of it commencing, the colony's population had increased sevenfold; its cities and regional towns had been revolutionised and its economy had exploded in size. What was just five years earlier destined to remain a minor colonial player had leapfrogged its more promising rivals to become the continent's biggest and most productive colony.
In this century, the massive expansion of the global middle class will have the same effect on Australia. But instead of this process being driven by a dozen isolated and landlocked goldfields, this reprise will be powered by an archipelago of world class mines, gas wells, farms and vibrant coastal metropolises.
For the raw materials, energy and food product industries, the global middle class' expansion will be responsible for unleashing a sustained increase in demand for nearly every product they produce. With the associated demand cycles lasting decades, perhaps even forever, vast geographical regions and industry related cities will be energised as a result of increased capital inflows, labour force movements and logistical infrastructure development. Indeed, for as long as the expansion continues, Australia's primary economy, terms of trade and strategic importance in foreign affairs will be overwhelming and positively enhanced.
Australia's industries with expertise in technology, service delivery and wealth and information management will also greatly benefit. Through a combination of Australia's time zone happenstance and its multi-century experience with urbanisation, city planning, healthcare, retailing, education, financial management, mining, agriculture, infrastructure, utility generation, distribution grids, recycling, sustainability and professional governance, millions of gifted workers and savvy business people will find success and opportunity in an increasingly service hungry world. As with the global commodity export boom, the global services boom will have a transformative effect upon Australia. However, in the cases of the tertiary and quaternary economy, it will be the most dynamic service centres which enjoy the greatest uplift.
In tandem, the swelling of these two economic areas will bring about a golden age in Australian society. As weaker nations wrestle with the economic disruptions caused by a rapidly transforming global economy, Australia will be growing into it. As developing nations grapple with the internal upheaval that massive socioeconomic change invariably creates, our migration programme will be gorging upon it. And as poorer nations struggle to feed, power, resource and service themselves, Australia's natural resource and service exporters will be making a fortune.