Federation Week: An Australian Mosaic
Visions for a Nation
Notes for the speech delivered by the Hon Alexander Downer for
Visions for a Nation
Alexander Downer was born in 1951 and was educated at Geelong
Grammar School, Radley College Oxford, and the University of Newcastle
upon Tyne. Before entering Federal Parliament, Mr Downer held positions
as an Economist with the Bank of New South Walkes, as a Diplomat, as a
Political Adviser to Malcolm Fraser and to Andrew Peacock and an the
Executive Director of the Australian Chamber of Commerce. Mr Downer was
elected Federal Member for Mayo in 1984. He served as a Shadow Minister
in a number of portfolios before becoming Leader of the Opposition in
Mr Downer stepped down as Liberal Party Leader in early 1995 and
became Shadow Minister for Foreign Affairs. In 1996 he was appointed
Minister for Foreign Affairs when the Liberal-National Party Coalition
was elected to Government. Mr Downer is married with three daughters and
one son. He is the grandson of prominent SA Federationist, Sir John
Downer, who was instrumental in drafting Australia’s Constitution.
In the last hundred years Australia has built a strong social and
Proud of our achievements
At an international level this century will be characterised by
- Increased global economic interdependence is inevitable and desirable
- As people are brought closer together (tourism, communications)
communities will become more tolerant and understanding of each other,
ie moderate the mutual threat perception.
- There will be a substantial change in the nature of the geo-strategic
power structure of the world (it has never been static).
- The Asia Pacific region will become increasingly important
- Transboundary issues. Illegal people movements, competition over
scarce, non-renewable resources, and the spread of pandemic diseases are
three issues that create tensions within nations and between nations.
Each of these three trends will present Australia with a number of
- Interdependence. To be a successful country we are going to have to
- Competitive ie quality of goods and services we produce, our
education system, research and development
- Open ie we need to be mentally prepared to seize the opportunities of
engagement with the rest of the world
- We need to strike the right balance between nationalism and
internationalism. We need not surrender our national characteristics, we
can have every confidence that we can do these things as we have done in
- Power Structures
- We have to be versatile in the relationships we build with other
- The single most important regional development in the next 50 years
will be the growth of China. China will change and Australia will need
to build a successful relationship with an increasingly democratic and
- In terms of our security we will need to play our part in a
contributing to building a mature security framework in the Asia Pacific
Region but it will evolve in ways we cant say.
- The US will remain the most powerful country in the world and
integral to securing a stable Asia Pacific Region.
- Transboundary issues
- Scarcity of resources – oil, gas, water, nuclear waste
- China, Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand suffer endemic water
shortages: critical to hydro-electricity generation and rice growing.
- Global freshwater consumption increased six-fold in 20th century cf
doubling of population growth. By 2025 UN estimates two-thirds of
world’s population could under ‘water stress conditions’.
- Major energy producers like the countries of Central Asia will attain
greater international significance.
- But new technologies will also help meet a number of environmental
challenges – ie global warming (and inevitably create new challenges
- Australia as a net exporter of energy, stands to gain but
adaptability to new technologies will be important.
- Pandemic health threats. HIV has already killed 22m people and 36m
are infected – by 2021 UN estimates are that 150m will have died or been
infected. Approx 8m people in the Asia Pacific are currently infected
and an estimated 40m may have contracted the virus by 2025.
The world is not doing enough to address these transboundary issues.
Versatility in our bilateral relationships is crucial. We cannot
focus on one group although naturally our attention will be directed at
Political parties in Australia that don’t understand these trends
will not be able to deliver the results the people want.