Speech to the G20 Heads of Mission Dinner
SUN 20 MARCH 2011
Thank you very much and thank you to Dennis for that introduction.
I would like to say about Dennis, that he is a fantastic leader for us in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. He has served more than one Prime Minister, but he has continuously served the national interest, and I thank him for that.
He is a tough-minded person. He is a person who always keeps Australia's interests at the forefront of his mind. He is also someone I have relied on as I have come to this position, and as you will have seen, undertaken a number of trips, including most recently to the United States.
But clearly when there is a new Prime Minister there is that moment, that first moment when Dennis comes and introduces himself, where he is obviously calculating to himself that this is the moment where he can perhaps most impose his vision of the future on the new prime minister, when the new prime minister's reserves are at the lowest and they are perhaps at their most impressionable.
In my conversation with Dennis at that time, he didn't actually seek to persuade me about anything regarding the future of foreign affairs in this country, but he did seek to persuade me that I was very lucky to have him, because if he wasn't working doing his current job then of course he had a standing offer to be the halfback at the Canberra Raiders.
This is something that I didn't quite believe at the time and I found as Prime Minister a healthy degree of scepticism helps you along the way, but Dennis is a fantastic person to rely on and thank you for being here.
Dennis, I too have struggled with doing the acknowledgments tonight, being well aware that if I was to name everybody individually then I would really have to start at the tables and just work through.
But I will do is I will acknowledge my parliamentary colleagues. The Deputy Prime Minister is here. We have two Parliamentary Secretaries here. Our Parliamentary Secretary for Trade, Justine Elliot, is here, and we are also joined by Parliamentary Secretary, Richard Marles, who works assisting the Minister for Foreign Affairs, most particularly on work related to Pacific Islands. So thank you very much for being here.
Can I acknowledge members of the foreign diplomatic corps in Canberra? Can I acknowledge leaders of the Australian business community? Can I acknowledge leading thinkers from our wonderful ANU and other parts of the academy and the foreign policy community? Can I even acknowledge members of the Canberra press gallery, including Paul Kelly, who I had the opportunity to be grilled by this morning? It's good to see you here.
And I did want to take this opportunity too, to single out one person for special acknowledgement and for thanks. That person is Gordon de Brouwer, he of course is the sherpa for the G20.
One thing I have learned in this job is they don't call them sherpas for nothing. It is a very onerous job but Australia is very well served by his character, his professionalism and his experience and I thank him for that work.
I have had the opportunity tonight to share my meal and some discussion with our Ambassador from Japan. I thank him for his company and I want to take this opportunity to once again convey my condolences to him and to the people of Japan on their devastating recent losses.
Tomorrow the Leader of the Opposition and I will attend with you, sir, to sign your condolence book on behalf of the people of Australia.
But even as we meet here tonight, Australians are seeing on their TV screens the story, the retelling of the stories of some members of our Urban Search and Rescue team who went to Japan to assist the people of Japan during these very dark days.
And whilst of course I haven't seen the television program because it's showing as we are here, I am very confident that what that program will show recorded through the eyes and the experiences of those Australians, is the incredible courage and resilience of the Japanese people in the face of this devastation.
I think we can also remember as we think about that Urban Search and Rescue team, that even as they leave Japan they are donating to the people they have worked alongside, their tents, their generators, their equipment. They wanted to do that in a spirit of friendship, and that I think is really, for all of us, an emblem of what our friendship with Japan means and particularly means for us in these very dark days.
It's my task tonight to reflect and give you a few words on the G20 and how it sits in Australian foreign policy and what we want to achieve at the G20 at the end of this year.
To turn to the first question - how does the G20 sit in the foreign policy of my Government? - can I say to you I am of course committed to an activist and creative foreign policy. It's not the Australian way to stand on the sidelines when we've got something to contribute.
As Prime Minister I view myself as walking in the footsteps of the Labor leaders past. We are internationalist by instinct. We believe in multilateral forums. We've believed that since the days of Doc Evatt and we continue to believe it. We believe as the world has grown ever more connected that the role of multilateral organisations has grown ever more important.
So we continue as an Australian nation to be very strong supporters of the United Nations and we are very strong supporters of effective global and regional institutions.
We believe in that kind of internationalism and that kind of engagement and it's certainly my intention as Prime Minister to continue with what I believe is a great Labor tradition.
The G20 sits firmly within this tradition. It's a body whose membership it reflects the new global economic and political realities. It's a body which can provide collective solutions to global economic challenges, and it's a body for which we want an ambitious agenda.
The G20 membership also reflects the growing dynamism of the region in which we live, just as by instinct as the Labor members and as a Labor Prime Minister we believe in multilateral engagement.
Since the days of Bob Hawke and Paul Keating, we have firmly turned our face towards our region. We know our future lies here. We know the history of the 21st century will be written in the Asia Pacific.
And so our engagement in the G20 we believe reinforces the engagement we have through regional institutions and the membership of the G20 bringing together as it does so many of the important countries of our region - China, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia with its standing outreach to whichever nation is chairing ASEAN at that time - that this is an important forum, the G20, to bring together countries in our region.
It builds of course on top of our engagement in developing regional architecture. We continue to have a strong focus on APEC, and Labor claims a proud tradition in relation to APEC.
We are working in the emerging new architecture of the East Asia Summit and we intend to be activist players in creating a broad agenda for the forthcoming East Asia Summit, and we do participate in forums like the ASEAN Defence Ministers Plus Eight Meeting.
We believe that there is a great deal of scope for agendas which are discussed in these regional forums to be agendas that can link to what is happening in the G20.
To give just one example of that, we believe that the East Asia Summit, as we move towards the end of this year, that there will be the capacity to link the work of the East Asia Summit with the financial stability agenda being dealt with through the G20. We believe that there could be a role to be played by the East Asia Summit in financial stability work in the region which reinforces and reflects the G20 agenda.
So we believe the G20 sitting as it does, having been formed at a leader's level in response to the global financial crisis, is an important global institution for us to be working within a global meeting place for leaders.
We believe it equips our multilateral tradition and we also believe that there can be a synergy between its agendas and the work that we are doing directly within the institutions and bodies of our region.
Now it's impossible to discuss the G20 without acknowledging the remarkable role that Kevin Rudd played in its formation at leader level.
If I can reflect very briefly the words I spoke at the US Congress last week. I said then, the vital forum for the global response was the leaders of the G20 nations.
My predecessor Kevin Rudd worked hard to ensure this was so, and he took his dynamism and energy and ideas into the creation of that first G20 discussion, and his determination and intellect are still serving Australia well as he serves as the nation's Foreign Minister.
Of course Kevin wanted to see the G20 come together at that important time in economic history because he understood that it was uniquely positioned to respond to the global financial crisis, and it has done so. It has done so with the reforms to global financial regulation. It's done so with the reforms to the IMF and the tripling of the IMF's resources. It's done so with the provision of economic stimulus, some $5 trillion in fiscal stimulus around the world. And through the provision of that stimulus, literally tens of millions of jobs were saved.
We know many jobs were lost and other countries have suffered so much more greatly than Australia has, but millions of jobs were saved by that quick, collective action through the G20.
Leaders have put in place an important framework for strong, sustainable and balanced growth to coordinate during those days of crisis, to coordinate during the days of recovery, and we would say to keep coordinating beyond the recovery into stronger and stronger growth.
That means the G20 should, in our view, continue to play a role in ensuring that there is dialogue about sound macroeconomic policies and economic reforms that have the capacity to boost productivity, income, jobs and national wealth.
Now, all of this means that through Australian eyes we see the G20 as a serious strategic opportunity, not just for us but for the global economy. And we believe that there is a shared and collective interest in making sure that the G20 is a genuine force for future growth.
Now, that won't just happen, we are determined to play a role in making it happen.
Can I talk now about where I think the G20 can and should go as we move towards the meeting at the end of this year?
I'd like firstly to talk about trade, not because I believe trade will dominate the agenda of the G20 at the end of the year - I most certainly do not - but I want to talk about trade first because I want to reinforce in this gathering that from the Australian perspective, focusing on trade is an urgent task.
Indeed, what will happen on trade will largely have happened by the time the G20 meets towards the end of this year.
And of course I'm referring to whether or not real progress will have been made in concluding the Doha Round.
And so I wanted to talk about trade first to reinforce the Australian view that at this stage of the global economic recovery, the global economy needs the can of Red Bull that the Doha Round would be to global growth. We believe it would be a great shot in the arm.
Now I'm a realist but I'm also a campaigner and an activist, and I understand how many hurdles lie in the way of concluding the Doha Round. But I also understand that we will not see it concluded unless we raise our voice and press on every opportunity to bring it to conclusion.
At the last G20 meeting, G20 leaders used terminology like end game. There are only so many occasions on which leaders can come together and use such terminology and not succeed.
When I spoke at the G20, I said to the leaders assembled there that whilst we were right to congratulate each other that we had not succumbed to a rising tide of protectionism in the darkest days of the global financial crisis, whilst we were right to congratulate each other on that, those congratulations could well be coming too soon, because I genuinely believe that the greatest and most difficult days in seeing off the potential for rising protectionism are not the days we've lived through, but the days to come.
I actually think as many nations around the world go through a period of sluggish growth, of stubbornly high unemployment rates and of fiscal consolidation, which in the language of people in the streets is the language of cut-back, government cutting back expenditure on things they used to rely on, that it is in those days that domestic pressure for protectionism will be at its most acute.
We are yet to live through those days, but if I am right on that prediction, it gives an even newer urgency to concluding the Doha Round because if we do not conclude it now I fear it will never be concluded.
And I do not believe that we can continue to go to meetings like the G20 full of congratulations that we haven't succumbed to protectionism but not able to take another step forward in freer global trade.
So I did want to go to trade first, not because I expect it to dominate the G20 agenda, but because I do believe it should be a key focus of what we talk to each other about and what business we try and conclude during the course of this year.
When G20 leaders come together, we aren't central bankers, we are leaders of nations. I mean that with all due apology to Glenn. I didn't mean that badly or unkindly - very important to have central bankers. But when we gather together, we are there as national leaders, and our task is to deliver for the people of the countries that have elected us to represent them.
Now, I'd have to say no one hammers that point harder than the Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer, Wayne Swan, who is very outcomes-focused at the G20 and has literally spent hundreds of hours of his life going and speaking with his peers in international forums on these issues. That's hundreds of hours there as well as hundreds of hours in transit.
So I will be carrying the same message to G20 leaders at the end of this year. We need to make sure that through those meetings we are delivering in a practical way for the people that we represent.
Consequently, I believe it is very important that the forthcoming G20, in further considering the global framework for sustained and balanced growth, has a particular focus on jobs and the growth that is necessary to create more jobs.
Now, the reality is in Australia, we do not have the kind of unemployment problem that others have around the world. We have a set of economic challenges we need to manage as growth continues to be fuelled by resources boom, the likes of which we haven't seen since the middle of the 1800s.
So we have challenges to manage. But they are different challenges from nations around the world which are struggling with not enough work for their people. So there needs to be a key focus on jobs. And I believe in focusing on jobs, that needs to be a focus not just for G20 nations talking about jobs for their own people, it needs to be a focus on jobs and employment growth around the world.
It would take a whole other opportunity and address to talk about the events that we are living through in the Middle East and North Africa, and that is not my purpose tonight. But when we reflect on some of those events, for example what has happened in Egypt, of course there are a broad range of causes.
But one of the things that we can clearly identify as a pressing problem is large numbers of young people often with high education levels and with no real prospects of work. This is a problem for individual countries, it is a problem for our global economy, and it should be a key focus of the dialogue at the G20.
To create jobs we need to improve growth. To improve growth we need to deliver economic reform. Australia's got a good economic reform story to tell, a story about focusing on skills, on participation, on continued competition reforms like the structural separation we've succeeded in, in telecommunications, the infrastructure improvement we will bring with the NBN, our drive towards a seamless economy.
So we can tell this story, but we would tell it for its demonstration effect about the benefits of economic reform in spurring growth. And so it will fall to the G20, in my view, to have further dialogue about creating jobs through increased growth, and that requires economic reform and a mix of interventions, including deep structural adjustment and fiscal consolidation for economies represented at the G20.
Whilst domestic economic policies are of course a matter for national governments, we know how interdependent nations are. And so I believe the G20 must continue this economic reform dialogue and the G20 does need to speak confidently and loudly about what its members are doing to ensure growth and to avoid the structural economic fault lines that gave rise to the global financial crisis in the first place and that could give rise to a future crisis if we don't continue to work on improving.
Of course this includes the G20 continuing its focus on improving the efficiency and competitiveness of the global banking system, and I'm very pleased that Australia will be chairing a workshop in the lead-up to the G20 on this new financial landscape. It needs to be a continuing and important part of the G20's work.
Having talked a great deal about the G20's role in driving the reforms that are necessary to secure growth, I do also want to reinforce tonight that through Australian eyes we see a broader role for the G20 than focusing solely on economic matters, as important as those economic matters are. We also believe that the G20 agenda should expand and we should be building on some of the developments that have occurred to date.
Every chair of the G20 puts their own stamp on the agenda. Certainly President Lee did in Seoul by making sure development was on the agenda. And we believe at the forthcoming G20 we can, with that on the agenda as a result of President Lee's work, have the G20 be a catalyst for improving the way in which we go about development.
Of course President Sarkozy has a great deal of ambition for the forthcoming G20 and we believe there is a real role in seeing that ambition harnessed and making sure we drive it to conclusion in a series of areas.
President Sarkozy has certainly flagged job creation as an important part of the G20 which he will chair and lead. But he's also said that he wants to see a focus on food security and we welcome that. We welcome that because of the importance of food security to tackling extreme poverty in our world.
We believe, with our expertise, that we can make a major contribution to this dialogue at the G20. Boosting agricultural productivity is a key part of ensuring food security, and Australia brings a very unique set - unique and deep set of tools to that debate. We are a nation that knows a great deal about productivity in agriculture, and we would be in a position to share that.
We also endorse the need for reform of the Food and Agriculture Organisation as part of this food security discussion. We endorse too the focus of President Sarkozy on stable energy markets, understanding that they're vital to sustaining economic recovery and protecting people against unnecessary rises in the cost of living. So we intend to be a contributor to that discussion at the G20.
We also believe that this G20 can play a role ahead of the 17th Conference of Parties in Durban in December on climate change. We believe in particular the G20 can play a role in developing options on climate change financing for consideration in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, another important set of discussions to be had at the G20 at the end of this year.
And as a great resource nation, I also believe Australia can make a contribution to an agenda around natural resources security. We have a reputation globally which we fought for hard and which we well deserve as a reliable global supplier. We believe we can make a contribution on the agenda at the G20 on the topic of natural resources security.
So that is a broad agenda to discuss and think through. Of course there will be other elements that come on the agenda. But I did tonight want to touch on those things that are at the forefront of my mind as we work through and prepare for the forthcoming G20.
Can I conclude by saying to you, the G20 has proved its worth. It was vital for stability during the global financial crisis, it was vital as we saw off the worst of the effects of what could have been a global depression.
Now the G20, having come through those days, is a serious strategic opportunity for this country and for the global economy. Seizing that strategic opportunity will require leadership.
That's something I said to President Obama when I recently met him in the United States.
For the G20 to work, leaders must lead. Diplomats, business leaders, academics, commentators, all have their responsibility of course. But national leaders have a special responsibility in a forum for leaders, and that is a responsibility I'm very glad to embrace.
A strong and successful G20 means growth and growth means jobs and jobs mean an opportunity at a good life. I fundamentally believe that. I believe that here, when in our domestic policy I talk about the benefits and dignity of work, I believe it as I attend meetings like the G20.
And because of that, because growth equals jobs and jobs equal a decent opportunity in life, the G20 matters so much to this government. And that's why Australia will continue to do its part at the G20. We will continue to deliver reform here at home. We will continue to support reform abroad.
Making the G20 a genuine force for future growth is going to require a sustained diplomatic effort and it will be a substantial foreign policy achievement. The Australian Government will lead in many of these discussions and I know that our diplomatic community will do its part.
I also believe that it will take every one of the extraordinary talents that we have here tonight, political and diplomatic, business, academic and media from Australia and around the world, to create and sustain this kind of effort and to achieve the kind of ambition we have for the G20.
We will all need to work together to deliver growth, jobs and better lives for people in this country, people in the G20 and the people of the world. It's a big challenge, but I'm looking forward to working with you on it.
Thank you very much.