Business is calling for bipartisanship over the broad direction of the federal government's Asian century white paper, as Australia sets course to ramp up its engagement with Asia.
The Business Council of Australia (BCA) and Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) said the challenge will be to implement the policies to fulfil the goals for 2025 of the white paper given the long time frame.
'There will be debate about the specific policy solutions to the challenges outlined in the white paper, but what is needed is bipartisanship on the broad direction,' BCA head Jennifer Westacott said in a statement.
'Clearly the government must take the lead in adhering to and delivering on many of the policy commitments, but equally the business community plays a significant and critical leadership role.'
ACCI chief Peter Anderson said governments, the federal opposition and the finance sector needed to follow through on goals to improve competitiveness, trade finance, Asian language and cultural learning.
'It sets the right ambition and points to more than enough economic, trade and social pathways for regional prosperity to keep both government and opposition away from the gender wars or partisan politics from now until the next election if they have enough will and discipline,' he said.
But Mr Anderson said while the paper stated the 'bleeding obvious', the federal government's response was a surprise packet of practical first measures.
'The exceptions are a failure to have saved the money to now afford what needs to be done, and lack of willingness to turn away from domestic policy errors that have eaten away at industry competitiveness like labour market re-regulation and the carbon tax,' he said.
Accounting body CPA Australia was disappointed there was no provision in the white paper for a dedicated cabinet minister for the Asian century.
'Such a minister would enable more effective coordination at a policy and budgetary level and in doing so, ease the path to implementation,' chief executive Alex Malley said.
Global law firm Baker McKenzie said all Australian companies looking to grow their business - particularly in services such education, law, accounting and finance - need an Asian strategy.
'Building relationships at all levels is critical, from school children to business leaders and government,' Australia managing partner Chris Freeland said in a statement.
'A better understanding of Asian cultures and languages, and building professional exchanges, is vital to better do business across this diverse region.'
Meanwhile, National Farmers' Federation President Jock Laurie welcomed the paper's recognition of the opportunities for the agriculture sector in Asia.
'And it has recognised that to capitalise on this, greater investment is needed to boost output and research, adapt to regulatory change and build capacity,' he said.
Educators also liked the skills and training thrust of the paper, saying Australian government must overhaul education funding and foreign student visa provisions.
Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Julie Bishop said there was nothing groundbreaking about the paper.
'I think it's a disappointing effort,' she told Sky News.
Ms Bishop said the paper did contain some laudable goals.
'What's missing is the funding to back it up, or any detailed steps on how they would achieve some of the strategic visions,' she said.
'There's nothing profound here, there's no insight beyond what governments are already doing.'
Ms Bishop also commented on the paper's political nature.
'It's main theme seems to be that to prepare for the Asian century, we need to embrace Labor's current policies.
'I fear it's been re-written by a posse of Labor spin doctors.'
Innes Willox, chief executive of Australian Industry Group, echoed the calls for both sides of politics to develop and implement a national Asia-competitive strategy.
He was disappointed a key ingredient of productive performance - workplace relations reform - was absent in the white paper.
'Yet more flexible workplace relations are critical to the realisation of productivity gains from other sources including education and training and innovation,' Mr Willox said.