Treasury secretary John Fraser is surprised at how little Australians know about what's happening in Asia

Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images

Geoff Kitney has a profile in the AFR of John Fraser, a former CEO of UBS Global Asset Management who is now secretary of the federal Treasury.

It’s a good summary of Fraser’s colourful character and career, and offers some insights on what is exercising the mind of the government’s most senior economics advisor.

Fraser makes the observation that he thinks the Australian community seems to be a little unaware of some of the major emerging realities of the world:

He has also been surprised that Australians are not more focused on what is happening in the rest of the world, especially in the Asia-Pacific region beyond the obvious significance of China. There appears to be too little recognition of the changes occurring in countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan. India is also on its way to becoming hugely important.

“I would have thought, with globalisation and internationalisation, the community would have been a little more up to date on that,” he says.

Indeed, and it’s an interesting phenomenon for a country where half the population was either born overseas or is the son or daughter of a foreigner.

Fraser is also “sceptical about economics as a profession”.

“We know far less than what we think we know,” he says. “And what we do know is far, far less than what we don’t know. I think the global financial crisis and the aftermath are fundamental reasons why economists should be extremely humble. Extremely humble! No one picked it.”

The former banker, who is known for his direct style, admits: “I am a prick. I really am.”

Scott Morrison will be looking forward to working with him and putting together the Turnbull government’s first budget.

Head over to the AFR for the full feature >>

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