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Govt must be accountable on Asia: Henry

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AAP

2012-11-09

Special adviser to Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Dr Ken Henry, says the government must be held accountable on delivering key regional food, energy and water security objectives set out in the Asian Century white paper.

Dr Henry, a former federal Treasury secretary, was the author of the white paper, released by the federal government in October.

Speaking at a sustainable business conference in Sydney on Friday, Dr Henry said the paper identified 25 objectives for the year 2025 that covered opportunities and responsibilities for Australia that had a bearing on regional security.

The objectives focused on sustainability issues such as water, energy and food security and included commitment to supporting carbon trading.

"This is a big agenda," Dr Henry said.

"The government has said this is what has to happen.

"Government has to be held accountable to deliver it."

Dr Henry also said Australian businesses had to change their thinking on competing with a growing Asia.

"The growth in Australia's future commercial relationship with China is not going to be in the resources sector," he said.

"Why have Australian businesses been so slow in taking up these opportunities?"

Dr Henry said if Australia wanted to guard against the food, water, energy and security risks that will confront the region and capitalise on opportunities then "the Australian mindset is going to have to change".

Dr Henry said businesses "wringing their hands" and saying they had to cut costs to boost productivity and combat the high Australian dollar did not have a sustainable business strategy.

Businesses having difficulty selling their products competitively had to accept that Australia is a high-wage country like Germany, Switzerland or Japan and seek opportunities like successful firms from those nations had done.

Successful businesses had to find where they could add value in regional or global supply chains, he said.

Peter Trute, AAP Senior Finance Writer