Amanda Vanstone is quite right of course — in a Paul Keating kind of way — when she points to the little Asian accident of Australia’s geography.  And yes, there might be something to be said for having our school students become fluent in a variety of Chinese or Indonesian dialects (although as we understand it, Italian is the Senator’s LOTE of choice). As the Senator said yesterday:

If I were in charge of Australia … I would ensure that every child from year one was learning either Mandarin or Bahasa Indonesia. There would be no way around it, and they would learn it all the way through [school], otherwise they just wouldn’t progress.

[Asia] is our part of the world, that’s where we sit, why can’t we recognise that?

Are we alone though in seeing the faintest trace of irony in having Senator Vanstone — once the bulwark of Australia’s often seemingly exclusionist system of refugee and migrant selection — now championing greater Asia-Australian integration? Maybe she was just deeply misunderstood.

Peter Fray

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