Global collaboration and cooperation on a vast range of challenges throughout the Asian region is essential to the future prosperity of Australia and its northern neighbours, according to the Chancellor of The University of Western Australia, Dr Michael Chaney.
Dr Chaney, who is also Chairman of National Australia Bank and Woodside, was today addressing delegates at the inaugural In The Zone conference at The University of Western Australia.
"We appear to be on the verge of a very exciting era of development within our zone. Western Australia's future is tied increasingly and intrinsically to Asia."
Dr Chaney said the zone now accounted for more than 40 per cent of global GDP, compared with 15 per cent in 1950. Much of this growth came from China, where share of GDP has risen to 20 per cent from five per cent 50 years ago.
He said Western Australia's trade flows were dominated by countries in the zone, with 85 per cent of exports going to the Asian region.
The pace of growth in China and India would continue to exceed global averages, and increased demand for metals in those countries would place heightened emphasis on Australia as a key trading partner, Dr Chaney said.
He said collaborations between governments, businesses and universities would be important in future development in the region. He highlighted the bid by The University of Western Australia and Curtin University of Technology partnership to host the world's largest ever astronomy project - the $2.5 billion Square Kilometre Array (SKA) - as one example of Australia's collaborative quest to lead world investigations.
Dr Chaney said linkages would be enhanced by placing an increased emphasis on investing in Asian language skills and culture and pointed to the currently low percentage of Australian students currently studying Chinese language.
Dr Chaney described the In The Zone conference as a landmark event for UWA that underpinned the university's role as a thought leader in the world's most important region.
"We have mounted In The Zone to engage the productive capacity of businesses, researchers, public servants and citizens; to frame and consider the era defining challenges from our unique perspective in this, the world's most populous and fastest growing time zone," he said.
Dr Chaney's comments followed the official opening address of the conference by the Governor of Western Australia, His Excellency Dr Ken Michael.
Dr Michael said the conference provided a unique forum for discussions about challenges, opportunities and growth in the zone.
"This initiative is highly strategic and very timely," he said.
Dr Michael said a key aim of zone partners was to work collaboratively to ensure prosperity. "The exchange of information, ideas and expertise will be critical to the future of the zone that we share," he said.
He described Australia as "an economic powerhouse" that already had strong collaborations with its Asian neighbours.
"One of the questions we can ask now is: what does WA have to do to take advantage of its resource richness and geographic position in the Asian Century?" Dr Michael said.
IN THE ZONE is a major public policy conference initiated by The University of Western Australia positioning Western Australia as a thought leader within the time zone it shares with 60 per cent of the world's population and the nations which promise the greatest economic growth for the 21st century.
2009 marks the inaugural IN THE ZONE Conference. This will become a biennial event and a strategic meeting point for the Australian and wider regional community to engage in dialogue about the zone we inhabit and to deepen the policy, trade and investment relationships.
Information about In the Zone, including the conference program: www.zone.uwa.edu.au
NB: MEDIA REPRESENTATIVES MUST REGISTER TO COVER THE CONFERENCE. GO TO: www.zone.uwa.edu.au/news/media_registration