Address to the India Australia Business Dinner
Thank you for that warm welcome Harinder, for that very warm introduction and thank you for all of the work that you and the team from the High Commission and Austrade have been doing to support the visit here and support our earnest endeavours to ensure that the Australia India relationship becomes stronger and stronger. It is at a height and it has got greater heights to achieve in the future.
With the Minister for State Power, Coal, New and Renewables, Energy and Mines, Piyush Goyal, we have had a very good discussion with other leaders from the energy sector here in India earlier today and I want to thank you all for participating in that.
I would also acknowledge in addition to the team from the High Commission and Austrade, of course, our Consul-General in Mumbai, Tony Huber, who is doing an outstanding job here in India’s business centre.
I want to acknowledge the Confederation of Indian Industries, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, and the Asia Society who all helped ensure tonight’s event has been as well attended and supported as it has been.
And I also, I should say to you, refer to my trip on the Metro with Prime Minister Modi. I am of course a passionate supporter of mass transit and regularly do tweets from trains and buses and ferries but I have never done a tweet with a fellow passenger on a train before that had over 5,000 retweets. That is a testimony to the charisma of the Prime Minister of India, I have to say. A few hundred would be regarded as a big hit from the Sydney metro.
Now, I want to say that here, as many of you’ve heard me say before, we are living in an extraordinary time in human history, where the pace and scale of change is without precedent. And it strikes me that nowhere is that more apparent than here in India.
We in Australia have watched in awe as across the subcontinent, villages and cities have transformed before our eyes.
And in this, the century of ideas, the digital revolution has transformed the economy.
Ten years ago we could not have imagined how the widespread use of smart phones, 400 million in India alone, would connect people to the global marketplace, democratise knowledge and expand people-to-people links right across the world.
That technology alone is one of the most extraordinary phenomenoms in human history.
The idea that billions of people have in their pocket a device that connects them potentially to everybody else, and yet this is a phenomenon that began ten years ago, the first smart phone was launched in 2007. It’s not very long ago.
And of course, Facebook, 1.5 billion accounts launched in a dorm room in Harvard in 2005.
These are momentous times. The pace and scale of change is without precedent.
Now Prime Minister Modi has an ambitious reform agenda to make the tax system more efficient, deregulate the economy, invest in skills and training and reduce the burden of red tape.
With almost 26 years of unbroken economic growth, there are few countries in the world that can showcase the benefits that these kinds of reforms deliver as Australia can.
This kind of commitment opens up new doors for economic engagement. And as close neighbours in the Indo-Pacific region, Prime Minister Modi and I are determined that Australia and India should work more closely together across all elements of our strategic partnership - business, trade, investment, research and innovation, security and defence cooperation.
The foundations for this enhanced relationship are strong, and they are underpinned by shared history and shared values.
We have a great deal in common - parliamentary democracies, countries that encompass both ancient culture and modern culture and modern progress, as societies that are richly diverse. And, of course, in Australia’s diversity we include our Indian Australian community of almost half a million.
We are, in Australia, we claim the most successful multicultural society in the world.
As I was discussing with the Minister earlier today my own city of Sydney, nearly a third of the people that live in Sydney were born outside of Australia. We have a much higher percentage, for example, of people born outside Australia or with parents that were born outside Australia, much higher, than say the United States has which is often seen as the great multicultural melting pot of diversity.
So we have managed to achieve a remarkable level of harmony in the midst of such diversity. We could not imagine the success of modern Australia, modern multicultural Australia without the contribution of half a million Indian Australians to our great nation.
Now, our two-way trade has doubled in the last decade to nearly $20 billion. It’s an impressive point but it is a fraction of what we should aspire to given the many points of intersection between our two economies. There has never been a better time than now for us to make that relationship stronger.
That is why tonight I am announcing that my Government is commissioning an India Economic Strategy.
The strategy will look beyond the immediate horizon. It will provide a plan to unlock the opportunities that will help us grow together, with a map that will guide our partnership through to 2035.
It is not about Australia discovering India but cementing India as a priority economic partner.
It will explore how to strengthen existing economic collaboration, while identifying new ways to do business together.
It will identify how Australia’s extensive reform experience can best support India’s economic reform agenda and modernisation.
And it will recommend new ways to maximise mutual benefits, including by engaging at the sub-national level – we recognise that many Indian states have globally significant economies in their own right, enormous economies and populations in their own right.
To achieve these objectives, the India Economic Strategy needs to be led by someone with a deep understanding of the relationship and extensive experience in a senior leadership role in Australian public life.
That’s why I’m pleased to announce that one of Australia’s most capable and agile minds, the former Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, former High Commissioner to India, and current Chancellor of the University of Queensland, Mr Peter Varghese, will lead this study.
We look forward to working closely with India in developing this report. I have just met, as you heard a moment ago with heads of leading Indian energy businesses to help inform the strategy and start investigating practical ways of increasing trade and investment.
I want to thank all of the attendees at the discussion earlier but in particular the Minister who gave us a very clear description of the government’s priorities and its agenda as it delivers 24x7 energy to, using the Prime Minister’s words, to all Indians and that is the goal, substantial increase in energy availability and security and we know that Australia is well placed to play a very important role in the future, indeed, as we do today.
Now I’m also pleased to announce tonight that the next Australian Business Week in India will be in the second half of this year. This will be the second time we have convened a major Australian trade mission focused on introducing more Australian companies to opportunities in India.
At our Leader’s Meeting yesterday, Prime Minister Modi and I both recognised that progress on the Comprehensive Economic Partnership, CECA, had not been as fast as either of us would like it to be. So we have directed our chief negotiators to schedule a new round of negotiations as soon as possible to get the process moving. We have asked them to tabulate each side’s ambitions so that we can see where the negotiators are apart and they will report back to both of us as soon as possible so that we can keep the focus on delivering CECA and identifying the areas where more work needs to be done.
There are good reasons to have high expectations. Both India and Australia recognise our economic success depends on moving from the industries of the past to ideas of the future.
In that pursuit, Australia aspires to be India’s knowledge partner of choice. A knowledge partnership will help both countries harness science and education to deliver on the promise of our 21st century democracies.
Our scientists work with India to explore biomass and solar refrigeration, and India’s innovation agenda is yielding many kinds of inventions and technologies and we saw some of those at Tata Consulting earlier today.
Prime Minister Modi wants to transform India into a global design and manufacturing hub. We already supply coking coal in abundance and copper, we can supply other resources, as well as equipment and expertise in mining, technology and services.
We talked about expertise in mining earlier today with leaders of the Indian coal industry.
Australia’s agriculture can help support India’s food security, help transform it into a global processing and exporting hub in areas such as dhal from pulses.
Similarly, Australian resources such as low ash coal can power, as it is doing now, but can do a lot more, powering India’s development and in so doing, as we discussed with the Minister, as you use cleaner coal and then cleaner coal fired generation techniques to shrink the carbon footprint without moving away from thermal generation entirely.
One of the greatest enablers of economic activity is reliable and affordable energy. My government has made energy policy a top priority for our country, as has the Indian Government through the 24x7 Power for All initiative.
We can work together to realise this vision, in developing clean energy and renewable energy storage, and designing the physical and regulatory infrastructure to run energy markets successfully.
We will work together through the Energy Dialogue on remote electrification, renewables, storage, minigrids and distributed generation. We also plan to work together and collaborate on new opportunities in hydro-electricity including pumped storage which is part of the Minister’s agenda here in India as well.
Like the rest of the world, Australia and India are moving towards lower-emissions energy futures. The more we cooperate in this venture, the more successful it will be.
We’ve worked together to meet both countries’ requirements around the civil use of nuclear energy and the export of Australian Uranium to power India’s growth. And I look forward to the first export of Australian uranium to India, which could come as early as this year.
It is not only in energy, but in many other aspects of progress and knowledge, that Australia and India share ambitions that neither one of us can reach alone.
Our interests, capacities, aspirations and resources all point us towards greater cooperation and a broader, richer partnership than we have yet enjoyed.
So I encourage all the businesses, here and at home, to seek more opportunities for us to travel in the same direction, helping and complementing one another as we do.
Each of us does better and walks further when we walk together.
Now is the time to begin.
Thank you very much.