The launch last October of the Gillard government’s White Paper Australia in the Asian Century was quite a show; in Pakistan it would have been called a tamasha – to use the lovely Urdu word for a song and dance. A flock of officials, business figures, commentators, and consultants looked grave and prophetic as they preached the importance of Asia – as if it were a new idea (their own). But as the editors of Australia’s Asia point out in their introductory chapter, ‘we have been here before’. The significance of Asia to modern Australia has been clear ever since the first ship from Bengal arrived in the infant settlement of Sydney in 1791. And it is now increasingly clear that the effects of contact with Asia on Aboriginal Australia were also considerable. While the degree of Asia’s importance may have varied, the fact of that importance is a constant.
Song and dance
Australia’s Asia: From Yellow Peril to Asian Century
edited by David Walker and Agnieszka Sobocinska
UWA Publishing, $39.95 pb, 384 pp, 9781742583495
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