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Thursday, 18 April 2013

Oz business finally gets behind Gillard's Asian program

At Boao Forum: ANZ's Mike Smith, Fortescue
Metals' Andrew Forrest, Westpac's Gail Kelly.
It has taken them a while, but Australia's business leaders are finally getting the message that there are opportunities for profit in China. The domestic push started back in October, with reports of the Asian Century white paper set to come out. But it seems Australian executives didn't want to move until the Opposition moved first, including a plan for education in its pre-policy Plan. In that plan, the Opposition would establish international links so that Australian students could complete part of their university degrees at an Asian university, if elected in September.

Business is coming on-board, with Andrew Forrest paying for Australian journalists to attend the recent Boao Forum on Hainan Island, which drew the PM and the Chinese president to attend. And now packaging magnate Anthony Pratt joins to form a chorus, asking the government to make it easier to do business in China. This puff piece is from the Australian, and leads its news coverage today in a prominent position on the website. Pratt's company, Visy, serves Australian food producers, who have been hard hit in recent years by high costs and the high dollar, with many plants closing. Now Visy is set to open production facilities in Asia.
AUSTRALIA would become a food "superpower", capitalising on a $2 trillion export opportunity in Asia, under sweeping industry regulation and tax reforms that will be put to a global food forum today. 
In a speech to be delivered at The Australian and The Wall Street Journal's inaugural Global Food Forum in Melbourne, billionaire packaging and recycling magnate Anthony Pratt will today call for sweeping changes that would allow Australia to quadruple its exports and feed 200 million people. 
The Visy Industries executive chairman will also call for a new "coalition of the willing", comprising federal, state and local governments, to put the national interest above political, sectional and regional interests and save the embattled food manufacturing industry.
It's not really a "story" to report that a businessman will talk at a forum your own paper has organised (the Australian and the Wall Street Journal are both owned by News Corporation, which is controlled by Rupert Murdoch, a businessman with extensive media interests in China). Reporting a press release as news is hardly a criminal offense, but the story demonstrates that while the big end of town has delayed joining the government in its Asia push, once on-message it can move with determination. Visy is a sponsor for the event and would benefit from any increase in Australian food manufacturing that would follow from bigger food sales to Asian countries.

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