Keynote Speech, Konrad Adenauer Stiftung

Speech
24 Apr 2018
Berlin
Prime Minister
E&OE
Economy and Finance, International and Trade, Defence and National Security

Thank you very much Professor Lambert for your kind introduction. Members of the Bundestag, Excellencies, Minister for Finance Mathias Cormann, our Ambassador Lynette Ward, distinguished guests. It's a great honour for me to be here at the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, here at the heart of the European project. It's a privilege to reflect upon the legacy of the man who gave his name and his values and his vision to your foundation.

Chancellor Konrad Adenauer guiding principles are as important for navigating the challenging world in which we find ourselves today, as they were at the time of his passing 51 years ago this week. Adenauer was haunted by the memory of the sounds of the Gestapo torture room directly below his own prison cell. Nearly half of his fellow prisoners were hanged or shot. He never forgot the forces unleashed when society “made an idol of the state and raised it to the altar”, as he put it in one of his early speeches as a national politician.

“It sacrificed the individual, it’s dignity and value, to this idol,” he said.

Of course for each day in his 14 years as Chancellor, he was confronted by similar forces on the other side of the Iron Curtain. Konrad Adenauer’s legacy can perhaps be distilled into three principles which have each underpinned a free, secure and prosperous Germany - principles which have renewed resonance today.

First, he believed in reconciliation with France. He knew the West could never be truly united until the continental powers had overcome their grievances to work together.

Second, he believed in the economic integration of democratic Europe as the way to ensure not only prosperity, but also security. His vision of a united democratic Europe was tied to the transatlantic security partnership. He understood that the West could not enjoy the opportunities of liberal democracy without marshalling the power and the will to resist Soviet subversion and coercion.

Third, at the deepest and perhaps the most visceral level, Adenauer knew that democracy needed to be taught. Had to be learned and could never be taken for granted. That lesson applies to our world today, one in which anti-democratic populism, strategic competition, authoritarian resurgence are eroding the foundations of our prosperity and security.

To meet the challenges of our times - the threat to openness, to freedom and to our individual humanity - democracies must rediscover their power and their purpose. Europe is at the heart of this democratic project. It has to be at the heart of this project, just as it was in the aftermath of the Second World War. Just as it has always been since the origins of democracy itself.

Now, I’m here at this place, at this time, because I believe we have a rare window of opportunity. This is a moment where Europe has strong and capable leaders in both Germany and France, who are deeply committed to all three of Adenauer principles. The unprecedented, coordinated expulsion of Russian diplomats that we've just seen in response to Russia's attack on British sovereignty, Russia's contempt for the rule of law, shows that Europe and the wider western world, is capable of acting decisively to protect ourselves in the face of outside threats.

And I congratulate Prime Minister Theresa May for showing strong leadership in collaboration with many others, including in France and Germany and the United States. Significantly, Australia was the only country outside NATO and the EU to join in this action. Now, as we move to negotiate a free trade agreement between Australia and Europe, we have a special opportunity to show what we stand for as well as what we stand against.

Now to understand why we think the EU-FTA with Australia is so important, let me give you some context to show how Australia is approaching the world.

We believe you cannot have prosperity without security. They go hand in hand. Each reinforces and enables the other.

We understand that the liberal, rules-based order - the legacy of leaders like Chancellor Adenauer has underpinned our prosperity and security for all of the post-war era. It certainly worked for Germany.

When Chancellor Adenauer and his Minister for Economic Affairs Ludwig Erhard put their principles into action, introducing a new currency and dismantling price and production controls, they engineered a stunning Wirtschaftswunder or “economic miracle.” Between 1948 and 1963 average real living standards in Germany tripled. The extension of this system after the Cold War to eastern and central Europe and almost all corners of the Indo-Pacific, has generated the greatest burst of economic growth innovation and human advancement the world has ever seen.

Yet the very same economic forces that have delivered prosperity and opportunity are also generating political uncertainty, military capability and strategic ambition.

Political alienation is feeding populism and protectionism and providing opportunities for foreign interference. All of these forces have been turbocharged by technological change at an unprecedented pace and scale.

We are navigating a rapidly changing multipolar world in which each of the major players are testing their relationships with each other, while undergoing rapid change themselves. On the security front, we're seeing this from Syria to Salisbury.

On the trade front, we're seeing rising tensions between the major powers – focused, dirigiste state capitalism in China, rising protectionism in the United States - all of which could test the capacity of the World Trade Organisation to settle disputes based on law and precedent.

In short, the liberal rules-based order that has enabled us all to pursue security and prosperity without compromising autonomy, is now straining under the weight of its success.

How should we respond?

Well, rather than retreat to some imagined island of isolation, we must act. We must actively defend, extend and augment the rules-based structures that have enabled peace and prosperity so far.

This is the theme that I have set out in a series of speeches over the past year, from Singapore to London to Perth. This is the central idea that animates Australia's Foreign Policy White Paper, which my Government delivered in Canberra in November. We found that we have many willing partners.

Over the past six months, we’ve welcomed a new quadrilateral dialogue with India, Japan and the United States.

We've introduced a transparency scheme and counter-intelligence legislation against foreign interference.

We’ve pushed ahead with 11 countries to sign a Comprehensive Trans Pacific Partnership; a free trade deal many - in fact almost all - said it was dead when the United States pulled out.

We brought together the leaders of Southeast Asia to a special ASEAN-Australia Summit in Sydney to advance the cause of security and open markets.

In Sydney, when I looked around the ASEAN Special Summit table just last month, I was struck by the fact that not one of those Southeast Asian leaders was a protectionist. And I have to tell you, I have the very same sense today; I don't expect any populist calls denouncing trade in this room. To the contrary, this is a moment where the people of Germany and France, the essential powers of continental Europe have elected deeply committed democrats, who believe in open markets. Crucially, Chancellor Merkel and President Macron are personally committed to working collaboratively with each other. What better way to seize this moment than to forge a free trade agreement between Australia and Europe? This is our special opportunity to demonstrate our abiding commitment to open markets, transparent rules and free trade. More than that, this is a statement of commitment to the wider rules-based system which underpins open societies; transparent and accountable government and our freedom.

In our region, in the Indo-Pacific, we’re blessed with a world most dynamic economies. But we lack Europe's deeply rooted rules and institutions. An FTA is our opportunity to combine the best of both. The free trade agreement we’re seeking will deliver for Australian producers and farmers, as well as their European consumers. I must also signal to Europe's agri-food sector the huge opportunity for expanded European trade with and investment in Australia.

The agreement must address the very restrictive farm tariffs and quotas that our Australian farmers currently face. But equally, we bring a wide lens to this project. In the modern global economy an Australia-EU FTA offers opportunities to go far beyond market access. We must aim for a modern and ambitious free trade agreement that pursues economic market integration on the basis of strong rules that deliver fair and open competition and a transparent and predictable, non-discriminatory regulatory environment.

It will take aim at those behind-the-border barriers that stifle and discriminate against cross-border trade and investment in services, the fastest growing, most dynamic sector of our economies.

We want our FTA to build a more seamless business environment, including one that makes it easier for European businesses to use Australia as a launchpad into Asia. One that makes it easier for European companies to follow the lead of Aldi, the German retailer which is joining with hundreds of Australian suppliers of food, wine and infant formula to supply the online marketplaces in China and indeed across Asia.

We want an FTA which makes it easier for companies like Siemens which has been in Australia for 145 years and now employs more than 2,200 Australians, across 16 locations. I visited Siemens’ impressive training centre this morning, where young Australian apprentices are being given new skills and insights from the world's leading country in vocational education.

We want to facilitate European defence industry, working with us to develop the industrial base we need in Australia, to pursue the largest re-equipment of our armed forces in peacetime. Two great examples include the contract with Lürssen to design and deliver 12 Offshore Patrol Vessels to be built in Australia, which will create hundreds of jobs. And of course the German defence powerhouse Rheinmetall which my Government has engaged to build our army's new fleet of Boxer Combat Reconnaissance Vehicles. That's a $5 billion program. It will create up to 1,450 highly skilled jobs across Australia.

Now these projects are key investments in our military capability, but they’ll also create export opportunities. Rheinmetall will be able to leverage a new state-of-the-art manufacturing facility in south east Queensland in pursuit of new opportunities in the southeast Asian market.

Security and prosperity and local jobs, going hand in hand.

An Australia-EU free trade agreement will make it easier for more companies to provide better services to Australian consumers and raise our capital and technological base. It will do the same for Australian companies entering the European market. Already there is $165 billion, that’s US dollars, of EU investments in Australia and $105 billion worth of Australian investments in the EU.

But we’d both be better off with a lot more. We realise that standing up for the principles of economic freedom, rejecting populism and protectionism might seem unfashionable in the world right now. But it's absolutely the right thing to do.

Those who want to raise new tariffs and quotas should consider how technology and globalisation is changing the equation. The Australians in the audience today will all remember the book, the great Australian history volume ‘The Tyranny of Distance’ by Geoffrey Blainey. It was written about the consequences of being a European colony on the farthest corner of the planet. Indeed when my forebear John Turnbull arrived in Sydney in 1802, he was met by the Governor of the day, who looked at him and said: “What are you doing here old man? At the other end of the earth, with one foot in the grave and the other out of it?” He was 57, lived for another 30 years or so, well past the impertinent Governor.

[Laughter]

But it gives you an idea of how far away Australia was, in the period that Geoff Blainey was writing about. You know, it was a great book at the time and a great title particularly. But it describes a world that no longer exists. Two years after publication in 1968 Boeing introduced the first jumbo jet, marking the advent of mass travel. Since then the democratisation of travel, commerce and above all information with the arrival of the internet, has continued unabated for 50 years.

You know, it's happened so quickly. I referred earlier to the pace and scale of change. We should not underestimate that. I went to study at Oxford in 1978. That was before the internet and telephone calls were too expensive to even contemplate. Faxes, forget about it. Lucy and I used to write to each other on aerograms that’d take a couple of weeks to arrive. The good thing is, we still have them.

When our son went to study in the United States 23 years later – which is not a very long period of time - the internet had arrived, telephony was so cheap it was free, emails were there. He read all the Australian newspapers if he cared to do so before we got up in the morning. A completely different world.

This has all happened in less than a generation. That is the critical insight.

The tenor of our times is change at a pace and scale without any precedent.

Now you know, in terms of human travel, physical travel, last month QANTAS launched their first nonstop flight from Australia to Europe. Australians can now get to London in 17 hours, when it used to take six months. There used to be a time, Mathias, when Australian prime ministers would get on steamships to go to London and always timed their visits for a Test match of course. Now, we literally fly over trade barriers that were previously insuperable. Technology has annihilated distance. At least longitudinal distance, latitudinal distance faces the barrier of jetlag, which may prove to be insuperable.

Today’s successes of the jumbo, the Airbus A380, are assembled in Toulouse from four million individual parts which are produced by 1,500 companies in 30 countries. So, I pity the customs officer who is tasked with raising tariffs on all of them. Old school protectionism makes no sense in this age of digital information and global supply chains.

So we're strongly backing the Australia-EU FTA, not just because of the market access it will deliver, but because it will enhance the 21st Century rules of the road we need. It will update the rules that govern the digital world and ensure greater transparency and a stronger rule of law in a world which is often short of both.

But like all the bilateral and regional trade agreements we’re pursuing, this one be grounded in the principles that are embedded in the WTO and the broader rules-based system.  It will reinforce that remarkable post-war system of rules and institutions, which requires nations big and small to play by impartial rules and respect each other's sovereignty.

Where might is not right.

Where to quote Lee Kuan Yew – “the big fish don't always eat the little fish, and the little fish, the shrimp.”

A trading system that continues to be governed by institutions and contracts, not the contemporary equivalents of gunboats or iron curtains.

Now, in reading about Adenauer, I was struck most by one quality; he did the right thing even when those around him did not. It's worth digging out the old footage from 1956 when our greatest Prime Minister Robert Menzies travelled to Bonn to meet Chancellor Adenauer at a time when the Soviet Union was using threats and tricks to try to force the abandonment of West Berlin. You can see why the two got along. That's not just because of their regal dispositions and their matching black frock coats and pinstripe pants.

They were fighting for the values of freedom, individual enterprise, individual human dignity.

They were fighting for the Western world to marshal its power and its purpose, when other important players appeared to be very distracted.

As Adenauer told the cameras after their meeting: “I can say without exaggeration that a great accordance of views was achieved in regards to the most pressing problems of our time.”

I know, I'll be able to using same words to describe my meeting this evening with Chancellor Angela Merkel. Adenauer set the precedent for generations of strong and principled German leaders, who have made Germany a powerful force for good in the world. The list begins of course with Chancellor Merkel and also Helmut Kohl who delivered freedom to the people of East Germany. His death last June was such a loss to the German people. It includes President Steinmeier with his powerful warnings that history can take catastrophic turns when we do not guard the rules and institutions which protect our individual freedoms. I welcomed the President to Perth last November and look forward to continuing our discussion tonight. And it extends to the Chairman of this Foundation, Professor Norbert Lammert who was such a tireless defender of democracy during his time as Bundestag President. Indeed the founding mission of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, embodies Adenauer’s life work; to teach democracy and the value of civil society to those who suffered under dictatorship.

You've each shown unwavering commitment to the values of the open society, to the values of freedom and mutual respect, underpinned by the rule of law.

These are the values and institutions that enable our security and prosperity.

These are the strengths that will enable a united, democratic and confident Europe - indeed the liberal democratic world - to reclaim its power and its purpose.

Thank you very much.

[ENDS]