Australia is positioned for decades of booming growth as the service center for a new middle class across Asia, Foreign Minister Bob Carr said Monday.
Carr said Australia can be far more than an important source of natural resources for China, one of the key planks in a current growth surge.
This is "a middle class century in Asia" that will see the "creation of a middle class, growing by more than 100 million every year," Carr said.
"It's not just China. It's Asia," he said in a speech to the Economic Club of New York and the Asia Society. "Our century will be defined by the rise of many countries and many cultures, not just one."
Aside from natural gas, minerals and other natural resources, Australia needs to compete when Asians "buy wine, movies and music, retirement and financial products," he said.
"In the century ahead, it's precisely economies like ours... which are best placed to prosper, but only if we can keep lifting productivity."
"To prosper in this new Asia we'll need to stay smart and be innovative," he said.
Carr defended Australia's new policy on keeping illegal immigrants and asylum seekers out by sending those arriving by sea to processing centers in Nauru and Papua New Guinea.
"The challenge is provide a disincentive to people smugglers. People smugglers are a business model," he said. "We had to destroy the economic model."
He also repeated Australia's denials that the deployment of 2,500 US Marines in northern Australia is intended to confront China.
"I'll explain the Marine presence in northern Australia. It's a deployment. They're there for some months for training," he said. "It's not a base."
Carr gave his speech in place of Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who had been scheduled to speak but canceled after falling sick.
"Due to illness the Prime Minister will not be delivering the scheduled address to the Asia Society and the Economic Club," a government official said, without giving details of what was wrong with Gillard, in New York for the UN General Assembly.