Since 1904 the brightest and best of young Australians have been winning Rhodes Scholarships to study at Oxford. Winners have included prime ministers, political leaders, a governor general, a Nobel Prize winner and high court judges.
How about funding a substantial foundation to provide for the brightest and best of young Australians to study at the best universities in Asia – Tokyo, Beijing, Seoul, Hong Kong, Singapore and elsewhere.
Your companies have been very profitable in exporting Australian owned ores to Asia. Your business futures and indeed Australia’s future is tied to Asia. But we lack the skills and understanding for the future in our region. Rhodes-type scholarships for our region would be an enormous step forward.
I am not aware of any of our major companies, including our mining companies, who have board members or senior executives who can speak any of the major languages of our region or have much experience of living and working in Asia. Business, like most institutions in Australia, is UK and US centric.
We need to do much better in Asia. We need to change and our mining and resource company leaders could make a substantial contribution to making it happen.
Last month a private US Equity firm, the Blackstone Group, made an historic announcement. Stephen Schwarzman from Blackstone announced in Beijing that a group of US companies were establishing a $US300 million scholarship for study in China. Schwarzman said that he hopes the new scholarship will rival the Rhodes scholarship in prestige and influence. The scholarship will pay all expenses for 200 students each year from around the world for a one-year Masters program at Tsinghua University in Beijing.
Schwarzman has made a $US100 million private donation and is supported by major companies with interests in China – Boeing, Caterpillar, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Credit Suisse and the Bloomberg Foundation. Its advisory board includes Kevin Rudd, Condolezza Rice, Colin Powell, Henry Kissinger, Robert Ruben, Henry Paulsen and Yo Yo Ma.
Surely Gina and Twiggy can persuade other business colleagues of theirs to set up a memorable scholarship for our future in Asia and for our young people.