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Bing News

  • Written by Republished with permission from Bing News

This year’s Lowy Institute Poll found that just 55 per cent of Australians trust the US to “act responsibly in the world”. Only three in 10 Australians have confidence in the US President to “do the right thing regarding world affairs”. Yet despite this, Australians continue to support the US alliance.

Given my life experiences, I feel more comfortable when the US president is an advocate of democracy, not a friend of authoritarians. But Trump is only one man – he is not the country. Our alliance is not with his administration, it is with the US. Australia would be mad to walk away from it.

Australia must recapture its sense of ambition

Melbourne's Bolte Bridge: Infrastructure investment is vital to Australia's economic and social future.

Photo: alamy.com

Australia has never been in a better position to influence international events and to benefit from them. One of our advantages is our location in Asia – which will be the most important region in the world in the decades to come.

Our interests lie in having a balanced region – with the United States actively engaged – in which Australia and other countries are able to make their own decisions.

To be strong abroad, Australia must be strong at home. I believe in a big Australia. I am an advocate for an ambitious immigration program. But for the first time in the history of Lowy Institute polling, I am in the minority.

In the 2018 poll, 54 per cent of Australians said the number of migrants coming to Australia was too high. There is a rising crescendo of opinion from columnists and politicians saying we should reduce our immigration intake.

And in the past year that intake has fallen. We have gone from migration targets to migration caps. But we are moving in the wrong direction. The act of migration is an act of ambition, imagination and bravery. To imagine a better life for yourself and your family and to leave behind all that is familiar requires a special kind of courage. Australia needs more of that courage.

When I arrived in Australia I felt this country regarded me as a future citizen. I wasn’t seen as a guest worker or a potential source of cheap labour. I was an Australian in the making. No one asked me my religion. No one displayed any prejudice. I was treated fairly by my fellow workers in my first job in a tool-making factory in Alexandria.

The challenge now is to give new arrivals that same sense of a personal stake in this country. We need their hard work and their belief. I am confident we will get that, if we make them welcome.

If you believe in immigration, you have to build infrastructure. Large-scale investment in roads, rail, airports, housing, energy, agriculture and digital infrastructure will make a huge difference to our future.

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We need a robust national plan and good project selection to make sure we invest wisely. Infrastructure must be separated from the annual budget obsession, to insulate its planning and development from the ebbs and flows of the economic cycle.

Investing in infrastructure is what nation-building is all about. It’s a tough job. But at the moment, being prime minister of Australia is even tougher.

Having five prime ministers in five years is not acceptable. Democracy needs to be nurtured and treated with care. We need to give the prime minister of the day a chance. No prime minister can push through the reforms we need if they cannot even finish a term in office.

Seventy years ago, Australia was open to people like me. It was open to new ideas. And there was a tangible sense of ambition about the place.

We must recapture that sense of openness and ambition. It will involve growing as a country – not just in terms of population but in terms of the impact we make on the world.

It will require deft diplomacy abroad and ambitious policies at home. But even more than all that, it will require self-confidence and faith in Australia. In my experience, that faith has always been repaid.

Frank Lowy is the chairman of the Lowy Institute. This is an extract of a speech he gave on Thursday night to mark the institute's 15th anniversary.

Authors: Republished with permission from Bing News

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