Australian companies have been exporting, forming Joint ventures and setting up wholly owned overseas operations since the middle of the last century. In the 1880s Colonial Sugar Refinery Limited (CSR) invested in the Fijian sugar industry and Burns Philp and Co Ltd established stevedoring, shipping, retailing and copra production throughout the South Pacific. Early this century, Australian mining companies were prominent in Malaya’s and Siam’s tin industries.
Australia-Malaysia relations ighlight how relations between two countries can have an impact on international marketing.
Malaysia ranks second in terms of Australian investment in the ASEAN countries (MITI 1993). During the 1980s both countries began to strengthen Joint economic, trade and social ties. This process of bridge-building had its successes and failures. Most of the problems were caused by the meeting of two cultures with quite different historical, political and social origins. Some clashes were inevitable.
The management and resolution of these conflicts has taken time, patience, sensitivity and respect rom both nations (Woolcott 1991).
Australia’s involvement in Malaya (Malaysia’s original name) goes back to the days during World War II, the Communist insurgency, and later during the Indonesian ‘confrontation’. The Royal Australian Air Force has had a presence in Butterworth for at least two decades. Commercial links between the countries have been growing over the same period. This rate of growth has at times been affected by political problems, as explained in Figure C2. . Cultural Sensitivities The first phase began with issues raised in 1986 and continuing till 1991. In 1986 here was a strong emotional reaction in Australia to the hanging of Barlow and Chambers.
Although they were hanged in compliance with the Internal Security Act of Malaysia, Australians termed the hanging ‘barbaric’. The Australian media highlighted this incident, creating some tension in the relationship between the two countries. In 1988 there were competitive feelings between the two countries in their bid for the Commonwealth Games of 1998.
The above two issues were further fuelled by the appeared to be based on Malaysia, and portrayed the country unfairly”certain scenes appeared that were actually offensive to Islam. In 1991, Australia imposed restrictions on importing Malaysian-made batteries. The Australian media also focused on human rights issues and tropical forest logging in Malaysia. The Malaysian government then imposed a freeze’ on government contracts and trade dealings with Australia, going so far as downgrading its ties with Australia and suspending some cooperative projects (Barker 1991).
This suspension created a great deal of uncertainty among Australian businesses intending to invest in and trade with Malaysia. Australian businesses had an estimated loss of $A200 million in view of this trained relationship (Lague 1991). Malaysian government departments were instructed to procure overseas orders from suppliers other than Australia. Finally, in July 1991 , the strained relationship came to an end when Senator Gareth Evans officially apologised to the Malaysian government.
In early 1993 a family dispute over child abduction created sensational news in the media, and was heading towards a disaster in the Australia-Malaysia relationship. The incident painted a negative picture of Malaysians in the eyes of Australians, although it did not affect trade or investment between the two countries. The major problem of 1993 was the Australian Prime Minister accusing the Malaysian Prime Minister of being recalcitrant for not having attended the APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) leaders’ summit in Seattle.
This was highlighted in the mass media for the most of November and December 1993. The major areas of concern that arose from this incident are as follows: The Malaysian government looked into attempts of downgrading levels of relationship with Australia. Certain Malaysian government departments severed ties with Australian businesses. ‘Buy Australia last’ was about to be proposed in Malaysia. ? Malaysian students were to be banned from furthering higher education in Australia. A few Australian companies did not secure any government contracts during this period. ? Malaysian companies found it very risky to invest in the Australian property market. The above areas of major concern were analysed and compiled from Australia’s leading newspapers and business magazines between 23 November 1993 and 14 December 1993. The issue was finally resolved when Mr Paul Keating wrote personally to Dr Mahathir Mohamad, outlining that he did not mean to cause any offence by using the ‘R’ word. The third phase became transparent from the racial statements made by Ms Hanson.
Mr Abbott, parliamentary secretary to the Employment Minister, said that the Pauline Hanson phenomenon was not a sign of entrenched racism”more likely, (Grattan 1997:4). The Australian International Education Foundation has also found that the ‘race debate sparked by the federal independent MP Ms Pauline Hanson may have caused a decline in Asian students’ demand for places in Australian universities’. It also discovered that, While the number of students coming to Australia had increased ince the start of the year, the rate of growth in terms of overseas enrolment fgures decreased by more than 66 per cent’.
Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of New South Wales, Professor Chris Fell, said that universities were concerned about the impact the Hanson controversy was having on enrolments. In one newspaper article (Healy 1997), it was reported that the Hanson debate on racism had indeed turned off almost 8% of the students coming from Asian countries, especially Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. The same report stated that the parents of the better students did not feel safe any more sending their children o Australia to study.
They felt their children would not be safe on the streets of Australia due to the Hanson antics. In fact, the article stated that a student survey numbering 2470 distributed to the main Asian markets disclosed that personal safety is highly valued and the most influential factor for students to consider when deciding on a country to study in. The culmination of this phase was witnessed by the Malaysian government’s introducing more stringent checks for students coming to study in Australia. Phase one to Phase three of the Australia-Malaysia relations had taken place in iew of differences in cultural perceptions.
It is imperative in international marketing that such cultural sensitivity about values and beliefs is adequately looked into to avoid any fall in overall trade between countries. Although the macro relationship between Australia and Malaysia soured for a while, there were signs of improvement after the Australian government intervened to resolve the key conflicts between the two countries (Wong 1995). Successful trading relations between Australia and Malaysia will rely extensively on the ability of each nation to respect the cultural differences of the other.