The parallels with the US are all too clear. From 1996 to the mid-2000s, bipartisan politics seemed to accept that Australian security could well be left in the broad, clasping hands of Washington. But be wary of the shifting patterns of power, warns White, for "America is weaker economically, diplomatically and military than it has been since World War Two, and yet we rely on it more."
Another factor also lubricates such slavish refusals to accept the changed order of things. Ignorance is the less than golden raw material that precedes misconceptions. In time, these misconceptions become policy platforms. The Australian Public Service (APS) is sorely lacking in much expertise that might sharpen a coherent focus towards the Indo-Pacific. In 2019, an "independent review" of the APS characteristically tooted that, "The ongoing shift in global economic weight to Asia presents tremendous opportunities for Australia, along with risks and significant challenges."
Tritely, the review, titled Public Service Our Future, notes that the APS needed to "deepen its experience in, and knowledge of, Asia." Those behind making policy required "a more sophisticated understanding of the region, as well as Asian language proficiency."
For almost a decade now, there has been much chatter about needing to beef up the stock of knowledge of that most complex of continents. The 2012 Asian Century White Paper was almost banal in stating that Australia was essentially flying blind in the region; there was a pressing need to "broaden and deepen our understanding of Asian cultures and language, to become more Asia literate." But the APS review found something quite different: "Coordinated and sustained action to deepen Asia-relevant capabilities was not taken then, and it remains a skills gap across the APS." Pezzullo's barking remarks suggest that illiteracy regarding Asia has become intellectually fashionable and monumentally dangerous.
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