Remarks at Business Roundtable Breakfast
Thank you Alexander, and thank you all for being here this morning.
Thank you for your commitment to Australia, for your investments in Australia.
Thank you Sanjeev Gupta for your decision to acquire Arrium. You’re going down to Australia tonight for ten days, and we look forward to you completing that acquisition and providing the investment support and security for the people of Whyalla and the steelmaking operations there which are so important.
I want to thank you all, as Alexander said, for your investment and partnership with Australia. The Australia-UK relationship of course is so close. There is no more trusted relationship at every level than we have with the UK. Whether it is at the level of family – most Australians have some ancestors in the UK and about five per cent of Australians were born in the UK - and of course our security ties. I’m sitting next to the former head of MI5. There were days when your predecessors wouldn’t have liked to have been with me, I think.
I hope all is forgiven. All is forgiven, of course it is. Well I spent, with Alexander, part of yesterday in the Cobra Briefing Room deep underneath Whitehall with the Joint Intelligence Committee. It did occur to me that 30 years ago, if I had found my way into a basement under Whitehall, I mightn’t have been let out.
So it is good, I do feel as though all is forgiven. That issue of trust, shared values, shared interest is so important. As Alexander said, we are committed to driving strong economic growth. At the election campaign, one of our slogans was jobs and growth; it’s not just a slogan, it’s an outcome, we’ve seen very strong jobs growth. We’ve had some terrific, just today – there’s always some new statistics – very strong business confidence figures out today published by the NAB. The economy is growing. We are recovering, and strongly, from the inevitable downturn of the mining investment boom. We had a huge increase in commodity prices, as you know, beginning about a decade ago. As Jan du Plessis from Rio knows very well. So massive investment and of course, it employed a lot of people, brought a lot of capital into the country when those big projects were built. Obviously the production continues, but the stimulus from the construction boom comes to an end.
Many people said we’d have a hard landing. Many distinguished economists said we would have a very hard landing. But in fact the resilience of the Australian economy, because of our commitment to free trade and open markets, enabled us to continue powering ahead.
Our growth, our economy, is much more diverse than it’s ever been. It is very much driven by our access to the big Asian markets, not just in exporting commodities, but services, agricultural products, food products. The economic growth in Tasmania for example, which has had tough economic times for a long time, is entirely driven by the export opportunities we’ve created.
That’s why when I was with Theresa May, the British Prime Minister yesterday, I was expressing great optimism for what she is going to be able to achieve in the post-Brexit environment because she is committed to Britain being an open trading economy, open to the world, recognizing just as we do that the more opportunities we have for our businesses to get out there and grow, the more opportunities for other businesses to come and invest with us and partner with us, the stronger we’ll be.
So I look forward to having a good discussion with you all and again, thank you for being here. Thank you for your confidence in Australia, because I can assure you it’s entirely reciprocated.