On Julie Bishop’s Thailand speech

Chris Larkin* Managing Director CLC writes: Re. “Bishop’s flop of a speech in Thailand reveals dangerous apathy towards south-east Asia

A correction and a few additions to your article. I don’t take great issue with your correspondents point that it has always been difficult to get governments interested in ASEAN. While the Australian government has always had huge diplomatic presence, with Bangkok and Jakarta being amongst our largest embassies globally, ASEAN tends to be overlooked by the Australian corporate sector in favour of seemingly bigger and more lucrative options in China and India.  With a few notable exceptions such as Linfox, Visy, ANZ, Blackmores, Toll and Bluescope, it just really hard to get an Australian corporate excited with the middling economic performance of Thailand and the rest of ASEAN. While not dire, governments in the region have basically given up on any real domestic economic reform since the end of the Asian financial crisis.  The lack of meaningful integration in ASEAN doesn’t  help either.

Despite making noises otherwise, there is very little real regulatory harmonisation between members countries on customs and tariff issues, as well as labour flows . These issues- as well as straight out barriers to foreign investment – means that it is always a big ask for Australian companies to make any meaningful strides into ASEAN without a huge amount of cash and a 20 to 30 year commitment – enough to scare off any Australian investor. Nevertheless there is renewed interest from governments, but more at a state level. The states are the ones with the larger budgets to attract investment, much larger than Austrade. The South Australian government has been focusing on Thailand is a big way and will be sending up its state governor Hieu Van Le this month to Thailand as part of a business delegation.  The Victorian Minister of Small Business, Trade and Innovation Phillip Dalidakis is also leading a delegation this month to Thailand. 

It is wrong for your correspondent to say that Federal Trade Minister Steve Ciobo never visited Thailand. He indeed did visit  right around the time he took over his role from Andrew Robb, making Thailand of his first ports of call. Julie Bishop has also been a regular visitor to Thailand, making more visits than others as FM have during their tenure, based on my 20+ years of living and working in Thailand. 

*Larkin is also a director at the Australian-Thai Chamber of Commerce 

On how protect ourselves from terrorism

David Havyatt writes: Re. “Something is badly wrong with the way we protect ourselves from terrorism“(Monday)

There is also the interesting fact that it was Peter Dutton’s agency (border force) that let the explosives into the country and George Brandis’ agencies (ASIO and AFP) that thwarted any attack. So why would you move the successful agencies into the portfolio of the Minister whose agency failed?

On the CBA scandal

John Richardson writes: Re.“Commbank can’t spin its way out of money laundering crisis” (Monday) 

I don’t want to keep picking on Glenn & Bernard, but I would again suggest that they must be naïve to expect Ian Narev or any member of the Commbank board to offer a resignation in response to the AUSTRAC scandal. 

Putting to one side the obvious implications of the consistent message sent to bank boards for years by our politicians, that they are “untouchable”, the reality is that anyone who has looked into the abyss will grasp at air to save themselves, so why would our bankers be any different?

The position adopted by Narev & his fellow “suits” is much less remarkable than their astonishingly naïve belief that the community would accept their phoney thesis that being responsible for the murder of 50,000 people would result in only one murder charge being laid. Now that’s a great crime!!