Keynote speech at the Yushan Forum (part I)

Written by Malcolm Turnbull.

Image credit: PB383 by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff/Flickr, license CC BY 2.0

Thank you very much Dr Michael Hsiao, Chairman of the Taiwan-Asia Exchange Foundation. 

Your Excellency, President Tsai Ing-wen, Mr Wellington Koo, Secretary-General of National Security Council, Dr Joseph Wu, Minister of Foreign Affairs. 

Good morning to all of your distinguished guests and attendees at the Yushan Forum. It’s wonderful to be speaking to you, thank you so much for inviting me to be here today. My only regret is that I cannot be there with you in person.  

The Covid 19 pandemic, of course as the President has just observed, has disrupted the world and inflicted enormous suffering around the world. But as Taiwan has demonstrated, with ingenuity, with innovation, it can be grappled with and successfully.  

Today the global community is looking at Taiwan more closely than ever before, and not because of increasing cross strait tensions.

Covid 19 has taken a million lives to date around the world, at least a million, over twenty percent of them in the United States alone and the world is facing the harshest economic shock since the Great Depression.

It is almost unprecedented for every community in the world, large and small, to be presented with the same challenge, at the same time. 

In that experience it is remarkable that no country in the world has more effectively protected its citizens from the pandemic than has Taiwan

Thanks to swift and decisive action, well before the pandemic was confirmed in China, Taiwan has had only 521 confirmed cases and seven deaths. There have been no locally acquired infections recorded for months.

The response of Australia’s governments have been very effective too especially when compared to Europe or the United States, but it cannot compare to the achievement that you have sustained in Taiwan. 

As Australia’s Prime Minister, one of my signature economic policies was the National Innovation and Science Agenda

We live today in the most exciting times, sometimes the most terrifying times, but they are times where the pace and scale of change is without precedent. In these times of rapid change, we have to make volatility our friend and constantly reimagine not just how we do business, but how we govern.

So, I was fascinated to learn how Taiwan was able to leverage open data and open governance to empower its citizens to protect themselves and each other. 

As your Digital Minister Audrey Tang has said, in a technologically vested democracy, if you give people data, as you do with platforms like vTaiwan, you give them the power to write their own fate and that of their nation. 

But what is most remarkable about Taiwan’s world’s best response is that it has been achieved in an open, vibrant democracy matched by a culture of collaboration and enhanced civic engagement.

Congratulations Madam President.

Australia and Taiwan share ideals of freedom, democracy and the rule of law.

It is these democractic ideals that are threatened, as the President just observed, by the rising tide of authoritarian populism with its ‘anti-globalist’ and protectionist agenda around the world. 

Protectionism has repeatedly been shown to be a costly failure – it isn’t a ladder to get out of a low growth trap but rather a shovel to dig it deeper. Combined with xenophobia, protectionism can develop into a toxic populist mix all too often stirred up by those who want to undermine our democracies. 

In the age of social media, anyone can be a publisher, the financial model of traditional publishing and broadcasting has been shaken, if not shattered, and politics is being rocked by more lies, and I regret to say, more hatred than ever. We don’t have to look very far to see examples of that. 

The moderate and the rational are shouted down by the extreme and often the unhinged. 

That is why, more than ever before, we must make a case for our democratic values on which our free societies are founded- and in particular for the mutual respect that makes it all possible. After all, mutual respect is at the very core of the concept of the rule of law. 

Mutual respect for the sovereignty of others underpins the rules based order that has enabled our region’s extraordinary economic growth over the last fifty years and more.

But we know we cannot take any of it for granted. 

Malcolm Turnbull was the 29th Prime Minister of Australia (2015-2018).

This speech has been published with the permission of the author. It has been published in its original form without editorial input from Taiwan Insight. The speech was first published on the former Prime Minister’s official website and can be found here.

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