PRIME MINISTER: Well thanks very much to the Australian Financial Review. It’s great to be here and a very warm welcome once more to Your Excellency Mr Ram Nath Kovind, President of the Republic of India. Your Excellency, it’s a pleasure and a great privilege to have you visit Australia. Australians have spent a bit of time in recent years thinking about our history, especially our military and war history, as we’ve commemorated the centenary of the First World War.
That terrible war, so early in our nationhood, the heroics it produced and the devastating loss of 62,000 Australian service personnel is etched in our national psyche. Gallipoli is a touchpoint for Australians as we reflect on those times. What is not widely known, but should be, is the contribution of Indian soldiers to the Gallipoli cause. They numbered 5,000 men and they served alongside our troops.
Battalions of professional soldiers, including Sikh infantry units and mule drivers from Punjab. Diggers sent home photos with their new Indian mates. Later in the war, at least a dozen Indian soldiers actually served as ANZACs – as members of the Australian Infantry Force. It is to those men, Your Excellency, that a local community in Cherrybrook, here in Sydney, decided to fund and build a memorial to the Indian soldiers who joined the AIF. That new memorial, was officially opened just 12 days ago – the High Commissioner helped officiate.
As much as anything, that small community memorial, speaks of the deepening affection between our two countries, people to people linkages. It is an irony that our peoples have been ahead of governments. They have understood the shared enterprising spirit; the willingness to accept each other on the basis of who we are rather than on the basis of class; a devotion to family and community; and to what we call in Australia a ‘have a go’ approach to life.
Our cultures might be different, but we believe in similar things. We believe of the supremacy of the ballot-box in our national life; in the rule of law; in institutions that safeguard rights; and the responsibility of free people to build a better world. And we believe in the rights of nations to live free and not under the controlling hand of others.
So today, while I wish to talk to you about a new chapter in the story of Australia and India – it’s an old book. We’ve been friends for a very long time.
Australia, like the rest of the world, marvels at the transformation of India that is occurring before our eyes. The facts are compelling. India is already the fastest-growing large economy in the world. Within two decades, it will become the world’s most populous country. In just seven years’ time, one-fifth of the world’s working age population will be Indian. Twelve years from now, it’s expected that one quarter of the world’s university graduates – one in four – will have been educated in India’s higher education system.
Our history and future is interwoven because of the deep-ties between our peoples. 700,000 people of Indian descent call Australia home – the fastest growing diaspora in our proudly multicultural nation. More than 87,000 Indian students are enrolled at our educational institutions and we welcome more skilled migrants from India than any other nation.
Though so different, we understand each other. Australia and India are both proud democracies, with the shared belief that the way to create the fairest society is to ensure a more prosperous society.
And we know that you do that by keeping our economies growing. Our economic ties saw two-way trade between Australia and India hit $27.5 billion last year. That only portends more opportunities for the citizens, exporters and investors of both nations.
That’s why the Government commissioned the India Economic Strategy. The report by Peter Varghese, a former High Commissioner to India and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Secretary, sets out a roadmap for the Australia-India economic relationship to 2035, with recommendations for how to boost our trade relationship threefold and Australian investment in India tenfold - an ambition that would bring India into the top tier of our economic partners, where it should be.
Our Government has endorsed the Strategy, including 10 short-term and 10 long-term priority recommendations and we have agreed to an initial implementation plan across government. We will build on that plan over the life of the Strategy.
We are prioritising four key sectors: education, resources, agri-business and tourism. Education is our biggest area of partnership, with outstanding opportunities to take it further. We’re already working to reposition Australia’s education brand to appeal more broadly to Indian students – including the introduction of a new one-stop shop digital education hub bringing together everything there is to know about studying in Australia – and increasing our digital and social media presence. The Minister for Education Dan Tehan will champion these initiatives, in line with a key recommendation of the strategy.
Resources Minister Matt Canavan and Minister for Agriculture David Littleproud will champion the implementation on resources and agriculture initiatives, with Trade, Tourism and Investment Minister Simon Birmingham focusing on tourism.
My Government is driving new efforts to attract visitors from one of the fastest-growing outbound tourist markets in the world, reflecting a key recommendation of the India Economic Strategy, we’ve already taken steps to make that easier. Just a few months ago we updated our air services agreement with India to increase the number of direct flights to Australia. So it will be quicker and easier for Indians to travel to Australia and it will also be easier for Australians to explore the true wonder of the world that is India.
Now coal is our single biggest export to India — worth more than 9 billion dollars in 2017. It’s been a great partnership since coal was first exported from Newcastle to Bengal in 1801. Australia can be proud of the contribution our resources sector has made to India’s extraordinary development, and demand for our resources is likely to grow further to fuel India’s growth. But there’s scope for much closer collaboration. We want to work more closely – using the expertise of our mining services sector – to help develop India’s own significant resource deposits. So in accordance with the India Economic Strategy, we will be boosting our support for the Australia-India Mining partnership at the Indian School of Mines in Dhanbad and establishing a Consulate-General at Kolkata.
But none of these initiatives can exist in isolation. We need to work together with business to bring the opportunities to life. The 2019 Australia Business Week in India will be a big part of that and I want state governments to get on board and look at how they can convert their relationships with India into real commercial partnerships. I want to see a big push on increasing our business community’s comprehension and grasp of India.
Agri-business is also essential to the way ahead. I’m not going to pretend that Australia and India have always seen eye-to-eye on agriculture. It’s a critical sector for both our countries, but that doesn’t mean there’s not plenty we can do together. We’re working towards establishing an Australia-India Food Partnership that strengthens engagement between our agriculture industries, and we’re creating a new diplomatic position at our embassy to focus on that work. Working more closely together means a more consistent and cooperative trade relationship, opening up new opportunities for Australia’s farm sector.
So those are the big four — education, tourism, resources and agriculture.
Over the next few weeks and months we’ll be announcing more initiatives in these areas, as well as in other sectors such as energy, health and financial services. Some of that extra effort will be around boosting the investment relationship. That includes a MoU between Austrade and Invest India that commits to promoting stronger two-way investment – that is being signed during the President’s visit. That’s a leap in the right direction. In most of our economic relationships with Asia, investment lags behind our trade in goods and services. With India, we can break new ground. We both have world-class businesses, adherence to the rule of law and we share language. That makes India an attractive investment destination for Australian businesses.
I’d like to see it on our top three within 20 years and it’s great to see companies like Enzen Global Solutions, based out of Bangalore, opening an Australian head office in Adelaide and creating 100 new highly-skilled jobs in the next couple of years.The benefits of investment go both ways.
Friends, I spoke a little earlier today at an event in Parramatta about my own journey into the intricacies of Indian cuisine over recent years. There’s a lot of love in our house during Morrison family curry nights; family, friends, laughter, jokes, stories, and curry, the essence of life.
But I am not the first Australian Prime Minister to have a love of India. Our second Prime Minister Alfred Deakin travelled to India before he entered national life. He fell in love with India and wrote two books about India before he became prime minister; the complexities, contradictions, colours, faiths, architecture and vibrancy of India captivated him. He returned to Australia as an evangelist for the opportunities for India.
Like others before him, to use his phrase, he ‘spread his sails to catch India’s breeze’, and Deakin had a message for Australia in his book Temple and Tomb in India, published 125 years ago, he wrote:
“What can we know of Australia if we limit our inquiries within our borders, to the neglect of our relations far and near and of those Asiatic empires which lie closest to us, with whose future our own tropical lands may yet be partially identified”.
He then went on to write; “the distance which separates us…is being steadily diminished between us, year by year.”
Your presence today Mr President confirms that early hope of one of our nascent prime ministers. We are fulfilling the hope of times past and embracing a future which will deepen further the ties between our two peoples.
Thank you for your presence today.