Distinction in travel journalism
Is independent travel journalism important to you?
Click here to keep it independent

20 Jun, 2008

Review Travel Advisories, Says “Australia 2020” Report

A high-level report submitted to Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd calls for the advisories to be reviewed because they affect Australia’s wider goals of promoting cultural exchange and travel for education.

In this dispatch:






The debate over the future of travel advisories has won support from an unexpected source. A high-level report submitted to Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd calls for the advisories to be reviewed because they affect Australia’s wider goals of promoting cultural exchange and the use of education as a form of aid to those countries where advisories are in place.

Although the “Australia 2020” report has nothing to do with the travel & tourism industry per se, it conclusions, if and when implemented, will have a significant influence on the broader social, cultural and geopolitical relations between Asia and Australia, of which tourism is very much a part. The report was the outcome of a high-level summit initiated by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to help shape a long-term strategy for the future of Australia at large “by thinking in new ways, coming up with new ideas and new directions” and building “a new way of working together.”

However, the mention of travel advisories in that context clearly opens up an opportunity for both the Australian and Asia-Pacific travel and tourism industries to similarly come up with a new way and new strategy for addressing one of the long-standing and most controversial issues affecting the flow of visitors between two, and by extension between the developed and developing countries at large. As it turned out, however, the small but extremely important mention of travel advisories went completely unnoticed, and the Australian government lost a major opportunity to take it forward when Mr Rudd visited Indonesia in early June 2008.

The Australia 2020 report was issued after intensive discussions amongst more than 1,000 Australians from diverse backgrounds who were invited by Prime Minister Rudd to attend the 2020 Summit at Parliament House in Canberra between April 19-20. Some were eminent in a specialised field; others ordinary Australians, including farmers, scientists, health professionals, artists and actors, community leaders and lawyers. Their brief was to focus on the challenges facing Australia in 10 major policy areas (see details in the next story below), and come up with fresh and innovative ideas on how to address them by the year 2020.

Whether or not the ideas are implemented depends on how long the Rudd government lasts. And the report stresses that their inclusion does not reflect any form of government endorsement. Still, the ideas, issues and conclusions in the 403-page report are a call to reinvent and re-engineer the Australian psyche both internally and externally.

For example, the report contains references to bringing Australia back closer to Asia, shedding its image as a “deputy sheriff” of the United States and making all Australians conversant in at least one Asian language (like Rudd, who speaks fluent Mandarin) by 2020. It talks of making Gross National Happiness “as a way of measuring its success as a society,” indicating the imminent dawn of a new era when driving Gross National Product will not be seen as a be-all and end-all panacea.

Numerous references to tourism in the report are framed in that wider context. Tourism is never mentioned in the well-worn and clearly outdated context of economic growth. Instead, it is repeatedly cited and recognised for its promotion of rural and agricultural communities, indigenous aboriginal culture, and the linkage with Australian arts, culture and heritage.

That is also the context in which travel advisories are mentioned — by dint of the impact on education, cultural exchange and poverty alleviation. Says the report, “The possibility of placing Australian students—both high school and tertiary—in Asian nations was raised. This concept of a ‘reverse Colombo Plan’ was discussed in the light of various examples of restrictions on student travel to Asian countries. Travel advisory warnings were also cited as an impediment to student exchanges with Asia, which was considered a critical issue for Australia’s integration into the Asian region.”

The report stresses the agreement among summit participants that “aid administered through education was a very positive model and would allow Australia to make an excellent contribution to the international community.”

Elaborating on this point in more detail specifically under the chapter on education, the report says, “Some participants (in the Summit) argued that restrictive travel advisories are used by universities and travel insurance companies to limit cultural exchange where significant travel warnings are in place. A number of participants asserted that the current system was overly conservative, flawed and inaccurate.

“One participant noted the important role the system plays in protecting the lives of Australians travelling in regions where risks and threats exist. It was agreed that a review of the current system and its use was required.”

Indirectly, the same argument also applies to “volunteerism”. Says the report, “Youth want to go into volunteering, if we can create avenues to go out to regions may change future. Private schools have encouraged this, but there has not been funding for this in public schools.” However, this too begs the question: How can Australian youth undertake volunteer work in countries against which there are travel advisories?

A golden opportunity to open a new chapter in positively addressing this issue arose when Prime Minister Rudd visited Indonesia. According to a report in The Australian newspaper, tourism from Australia to Indonesia was discussed in the talks between Mr Rudd and Indonesian President Susilo Yudhoyono. However, according to report in The Australian, Mr Rudd described the travel advisories as being the result of independent conclusions by the National Threat Assessment Centre, and downplayed them as being a “disagreement among friends.”

That comment basically was a reaffirmation of the long-standing Australian party-line that ensuring the safety of its citizens abroad is a paramount consideration in the issuance of travel advisories. However, ensuring the safety of Australians in Indonesia, and in fact everyone in Indonesia, visitors and residents, is also the concern of the Indonesian government which is clearly doing everything possible in that regard.

Had that call been heeded for a review of travel advisories in the Australia 2020 report, the Prime Minister would have been seen to be taking a huge step forward in achieving the broader, holistic context of his objective to re-engage Australia with Indonesia, and indeed Asia at large. Times have changed and such a review is long overdue anyway. Although the opportunity was clearly lost, it is still not too late to revisit the issue, this time by focusing not just on security considerations but all the wider contexts cited in the report itself.

Undertaking such a review will send a clear signal that Australia is serious about re-engaging with Asia in an atmosphere of mutual respect and via recognition of mutual concerns, not a one-way street that makes Australian objectives appear to be more of a priority than Indonesian concerns. It will also build on the positive image generated for Australia throughout Asia by the Rudd Government’s signing of the Kyoto Protocol, the apology to the indigenous people and the pullout of Australian troops from Iraq.

Very simply, it’s called walking the talk. Building more goodwill will certainly build better relations and boost safety and security for all. That will help achieve precisely what those travel advisories are supposed to.



The Australia 2020 report is about issues, not specific industries. Each of the 10 major policy issues discussed at the Australia 2020 summit all influence, or are influenced by, travel and tourism. Indeed, anyone who reads the report in full [as this editor has done] will clearly see massive opportunities for travel & tourism to both contribute to, and benefit from, the realisation of the wider objectives identified in the report. The 10 policy challenges set out for discussion were:

<> The productivity agenda—education, skills, training, science and innovation

<> The future of the Australian economy

<> Population, sustainability, climate change, water and the future of Australian cities

<> Future directions for rural industries and rural communities

<> A long-term national health strategy

<> Strengthening communities, supporting families and social inclusion

<> Options for the future of Indigenous Australia

<> Towards a creative Australia—the future of the arts, film and design

<> The future of Australian governance—renewed democracy, a more open government (including the role of the media), the structure of the federation, and the rights and responsibilities of citizens

<> Australia’s future security and prosperity in a rapidly changing region and world.

The Australia 2020 Summit Final Report was prepared by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, using the detailed notes of appointed rapporteurs. According to the report, “It seeks to reflect the discussions and ideas of summit participants; it does not represent government endorsement or otherwise of those discussions and ideas.” It does however, reflect a desire to “identify policy mechanisms to realise those ambitions.”

The full report is downloadable from the website, www.australia2020.gov.au.

What next? Says the report, “Despite its title, the Australia 2020 Summit Final Report is not the end: the Australian Government wants the national conversation to continue. The summit should not be the end of the debate, and many more Australians are invited to contribute, to help shape our nation’s future. The government will endeavour to address all contributions made before, during and after the summit, in its policy development processes.

“The Prime Minister has made a commitment that by the end of 2008 the government will have responded to the recommendations put forward by the 10 summit streams. On 19 April 2008, in his opening address to the summit, he said:

“Some of these ideas we will be able to embrace. Others we will not. And some we will take in part and change. But, you know something? It is far better we ask the question and have the answers come forward, so that the whole process of national creativity in the ideas debate for our future occurs, rather than throttling it before it starts. There are no right and wrong answers when it comes to a discussion among people of good heart, good mind and good will.

“The years ahead will undoubtedly throw up many unforeseen challenges and unimagined opportunities. Australians need to keep discussing, debating and generating new ideas and perspectives for formulating the national strategies and solutions of tomorrow.”



Here are a selection of quotes from the Australia 2020 report:

<> Preparation for future work practices is crucial. We will all need to be global (and bilingual) employees in 2020. Language training has fallen into desuetude, and we are not preparing for cultural challenges ahead, at either school or post-secondary level. We should be changing the syllabus in all areas of education to take this into consideration.

<> Acknowledge many speak non-English. Vision that every Australian child will speak another language by 2020 as this one thing will break down many barriers.

<> In the United States Spanish is the second language; this breaks down barriers. Language: we all come from different countries, yet our kids don’t know own language, not taught at schools, this can link families and communities.

<> Equality, not tolerance. We should move from being a tolerant society to an equal society. Tolerance is prejudice with a smile.

<> The marketplace must service humanity, not the reverse. We must have a full appreciation of social capital, not just economic capital. Investment must involve moral obligation towards society.

<> Answer the question: Are we an economy or a society? The vision is we are a society served by an economy.

<> We should also aim for the first Indigenous Vice Chancellor of a mainstream university in Australia by 2020.

<> Big challenge is working much longer hours: what are the incentives to change this?

<> Youth want to go into volunteering, if we can create avenues to go out to regions may change future. Private schools have encouraged this, but there has not been funding for this in public schools.

<> Shift culture of services from ‘business’ KPIs to community outcomes.

<> What can be done to best promote and preserve Indigenous cultures, languages and traditions?

<> Build on the apology to the stolen generation to reduce ‘the painful separation between us’ as people within the nation.

<> Indigenous people should be seen as equal citizens everywhere, having choice and access, and be properly culturally positioned in this country.

<> After the apology, we are coming into a shared history. We need to go further and engage in a framework where we will never be in a situation of racism again.

<> Confront racism to ensure a genuine, enduring relationship between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and the wider Australian community.

<> A treaty would be a new expression of citizenship rights. It could be a declaration of rights or citizenship rights, a national treaty or regional treaties.

<> A treaty would clarify engagement between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, enable a national approach, formally provide for reparation and redress, and enhance Indigenous elders’ ability to argue for cultural revival—as in New Zealand.

<> Australia will need a comprehensive national plan for the teaching and learning of Asian languages and studies across all levels. We need to understand and work with others in our region.

<> By 2020 Australians should be able to speak at least one Asian language, and the nation should be a regional hub for clean energy technology, including nuclear technology.

<> By 2020 we need to be a deeply Asia-literate society—economically, culturally and socially integrated with Asia, including through listening and learning.

<> These ideas should help position Australia in a global context, so that by 2020 Australian attitudes about our place in the world and world perceptions of us have changed. Education policies need to promote Asian language and context—a national, open-minded, globally focused curriculum.

<> Australia should be an active participant in the UN Human Rights Council and commissions, leading with programs to implement human rights observance here and abroad. A nation where women fill at least 30 per cent of all private and public senior positions, where pay inequality is in the past, achieved by mandating quotas for participation and rebates for private compliance. By 2020 we should have held our next constitutional convention, entrenching human rights. An Aboriginal woman should be our president, and we will have had our first woman Prime Minister and chief justice.

<> By 2020 Australia would be a world leader in Asian language teaching, including the best research-led pedagogy.

<> By 2020 Australia would be an astute, celebratory, respectful, wise and engaged nation that understands its place in the world and embraces the interests of the globe as a whole.

<> By 2020 a nation’s wellbeing, rather than its poverty or wealth, would be the basis on which we looked at other countries.

<> In 2020 Australia would have abandoned progress as the driver of its policies and would have instead embraced solidarity and hospitality as the foundation on which it build its international approach.

<> In 2008 too much was spent on unproductive sectors such as defence. A key ambition for 2020 should be increasing health and education opportunities and ensuring they are the focus for Australia’s foreign and defence policy.

<> One view expressed at the summit was that in 2008 Australia was seen too often as a white, western country. By 2020 this will have changed.

<> A key goal of the summit should be that by 2020 Australia is committed to social justice and parity of wealth and opportunity. In 2020 Australia will have shed the role of ‘deputy sheriff’. Its words will be matched by its deeds, and it will be committed to seeking to understand the grievances of others, both at home and overseas.

<> In 2020 Australia will use ‘gross national happiness’ as a way of measuring its success as a society.

<> In 2020 Australian security policy would include responsible hard policies, which do not create public compliance and thus private resentment. Australia’s security policy would also include grass-roots long-term soft policies that address the root causes of radicalisation and terrorism.

<> Australia will by 2020 find its security in the world and the region, not from it. Australia will recognise that its security is tied to the stability of Indonesia and the Pacific and that its border security depends on the strength of the justice and policing systems in Asia.

<> In 2020 Australia will be a true friend of the region, contributing actively to the development of regional solutions. It has moved away from the ‘deputy sheriff’ role.

<> In 2020 Australia has begun to move from having courts of law to having courts of truth and justice.

<> Out of the summit it was crucial that ideas emerged that enabled the formation of policies that promote regional engagement, strengthen the Australian identity, and help Australia achieve a greater understanding of its place in the world. As a means of achieving these goals a nationwide program for teaching Asian languages and studies (including the history, politics and economics of the region) should be introduced at all levels of the education system. The program should include the introduction of substantial in-country study programs.

<> Our key ambition by 2020 should be to educate our children to be globally intelligent and to ensure that Australia is able to train and reward this intelligence. This approach would enable Australia to stay nimble at a time of enormous change.

<> By 2020 Asian studies and the teaching of Asian languages will be commonplace.

<> In 2020 Australia will see itself as part of the Asia–Pacific region and not as a European outpost.

<> By 2020 Australia will not be the ‘deputy sheriff’ but, having won the respect of the region, will be a regional leader. Australia will be a ‘regional facilitator’ of international law initiatives and will promote a democratic and just regional outlook.

<> A key goal will be a national strategy for Australia’s place in Asia covering our identity, Asia literacy and membership of regional bodies. Policy should be geared for Asian engagement through absorption of Asia literacy into the national psyche, including funded programs and investments in language, culture and education. Every student from kindergarten to year 12 should be fluent in an Asian language.

Comments are closed.