Last updated: May 26. 2013 9:48PM - 935 Views

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When Julia Gillard released the government’s Australia in the Asian Century white paper in October last year, it was heralded as a road map to guide regional foreign policy engagement in the coming decades.

It was touted as “an ambitious plan” that would ensure Australia was positioned to seize the opportunities and deal with the challenges of being located on the edge of the fastest growing economic region in the world. More than six months on, as the government’s attention has been diverted to other ambitious but flawed policy agendas, and funding has been cut to Australia’s diplomatic corp, the much-trumpeted white paper is at risk of being yet another triumph of political spin over policy substance.

Richard Woolcott, one of Australia’s most experienced diplomats, has … suggested much of the progress being made in the region was illusionary. The former head of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade accused ministers of overstating the level of success in building and strengthening Australia’s links with the region. … What is needed is a readjustment of priorities so that the government’s rhetoric on Asian engagement is consistent with its spending on diplomacy …

The Gillard government is not averse to announcing bold plans with great fanfare. But the opportunities presented by the transformation taking place in our region are too important to be reduced to just another tool of political propaganda.

The Australian, Sydney

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