Australia’s cultural self
-confidence has come from testing our ideas and our ways of doing things againstthose of others and changing ours whenever they have been found wanting.
The Chinese restaurant, long ubiquitous in Australia’s suburbs and towns, was an early sign of our readiness
to absorb foreign ways and make them part of our own.Many of the 700,000 Australians of Chinese ancestry have come via Singapore, Malaysia or Hong Kong and
could readily appreciate Australia’s British heritage.
These days, Australians of Chinese background abound in our professions and dominate the academicresults of many of our best schools.
Dr Victor Chang was one of Australia’s finest cardiologists. Professor John Yu, a former Australian of the
Year, is one of our foremost paediatricians.Their emphasis on the importance of family, hard work and education; their business acumen and their
instinct, in Prime Minister Menzies’ phrase, to be “lifters not leaners”, make them model citizens.I’m proud that the first Chinese
-born member of an Australian parliament was a member of my party: HelenSham-Ho MLC.So was the first Chinese-born member of the national parliament, Senator Tsebin Tchen.With their respect for tradition and aptitude for business, Chinese people should be natural liberalconservatives.
Australia’s conservative political leaders
have good Asia credentials.
It was Menzies who first referred to Asia as the “near north” rather than the “far east”.
It was the Menzies government that launched the Colombo Plan for the future leaders of Asia to study inAustralia.It was the Holt
government that ended the embarrassment of the “white Australia” policy.
Since Deng Xiaoping first introduced market reforms and opened China to the world, Australiangovernments of both sides have striven consistently to cultivate the best possible relations with China.
The Howard government’s approach to foreign policy, including relations with China, was to avoid giving
other countries gratuitous public advice in favour of trying to work together on matters of mutual interest.As health minister in the Howard government, I visited Beijing (twice), Shanghai, Hong Kong and Chengduin 2006 and 2007.I was keen to work with my then-Chinese counter-part, Minister Gao, to maximize precautions against apossible bird flu pandemic.
At my colleague’s invitation, I visited Sichuan province and was, so I’m told, the first Australian MP since
Bob Hawke allowed to cuddle a baby Panda bear.Should the Coalition win the next election, my goal would be to maintain this consistency.