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Australia's Future PM?

Mark McGowan - Exemplar of how to engage Asia.

Western Australian Premier Mark McGowan is an exemplar of how Australian leaders need to engage with our neighbours in this, the Asian Century.

More recently the people who we trust to represent us in our relationships with our Asian partners, led by our Prime Minister, have not demonstrated the level of respect that most Australians would consider appropriate for a leading multicultural country. A nation that wishes to play a leading role in the Asia Pacific region to protect our position and our future.

In contrast to the national decline in both bi-partisanship and diplomatic nous that is causing our economy such clear harm, I was delighted this weekend to be present to witness a regional leader demonstrate the vision that we would expect of a national leader.

In his speech and interactions at the Chung Wah Chinese New Year gala dinner at Crown Perth, WA Premier Mark McGowan was proactive, respectful and nuanced in his communications. The WA Premier conveyed a high regard for the importance to him, his Party and the people he represents, by fostering close and warm relations with WA's trade and investment strategic partners, in particular WA's leading economic partner - the People's Republic of China.

It would be a great understatement to say that the WA Premier's consistent and positive support for the contributions of Chinese people and China as a country to the economic wellbeing of Western Australians was observably deeply appreciated. The room awash with warmth and affection. The Premier and his wife Sarah, WA's First Lady, sacrificed their time together, as they willingly made themselves available for endless selfies and photos.

Premier McGowan displayed humility and cultural sensitivity as he noted to the crowd that he had studied both his Chinese Zodiac and 2021 horoscope, discovering that, as a "Fire Goat", he "will struggle to be successful this year" so "If I don't deliver my commitments I will lose my job".

The Premier's personal warmth and cultural intelligence set him apart in the current adversarial political climate. No wonder he has no trouble having his counterparts in Beijing pick up his phone calls.

I was reminded of the Hon. Richard Court AC, mentor from my time as the Founder of KPMG Australia's China Business Practice. Richard, like his own legendary father Sir Charles Court, is another leader who has strode the Asian stage with aplomb and sensitivity, moving from private lunches with former Premier Zhu Rongji to receiving awards from the Emperor of Japan.

It is perhaps not surprising that both leaders are from Western Australia, the State that engages more than any other and depends more than any other upon its relationships with Asia.

Indeed at the dinner a particular highlight was the delivery in mandarin of the Chinese folk love song "Kang Ding Qing Ge" by the amazing duet of Richard's daughter, Billie Court and Shen Sheng, VP of the WA Chinese Chamber of Commerce. This is the cultural embrace, warmth and engagement that we need to nurture in all our towns and cities.

So, whilst I am fearful of the reaction of the people of Western Australia for suggesting that their beloved leader Mark McGowan would be a blessing to Australia if he was to relocate to Canberra; we can nonetheless focus on him as an archetype of the model of inclusive, culturally literate leader that Australia is crying out for at this critically important time in our history.

Duncan Calder

Chairperson, Advisory Board

Asia Culture & Commerce

Red Circle Network

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