Speech at the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum Lunch

Speech
02 Mar 2018
Prime Minister
International and Trade

PRIME MINISTER:

Well thank you very much Adrian and I want to thank Anne for her very warm welcome to country here today. We are on the land of the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation and we pay our respects to them, to their elders, past and present.

Let me also commend the great work Warren Mundine and Tracey Tu Papa who lead the ANZLF’s Indigenous Working Group that is promoting Australia and New Zealand indigenous businesses and communities.

Prime Minister Ardern and I discussed that earlier today at our meeting, it’s a great initiative and we’re all absolutely supportive of it.

So good afternoon and thank you for inviting me and Lucy here and so many of our colleagues and Prime Minister Ardern and so many of her colleagues here to the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum.

And I acknowledge the forum’s co-chairs, Ann Sherry and Adrian Littlewood and all the participants for your unwavering commitment to this forum - you’re driving our economic relationship.

Now I’ve just returned from the United States where I met the most substantial and influential delegation of Australian business leaders to ever visit there and coinciding not just with our visit to see the President at the White House but also at the National Governor’s Association. And I was reminded again how important it is for government to back business and for business to back our international partnerships.

Yes, governments smooth the way - and in our relationship with New Zealand that has always been a top priority. But ultimately it is you - your enterprise and your connections that make our economic relationship what it is.

And I’d like to particularly thank the Prime Minister of New Zealand, The Right Honourable Jacinda Ardern for being here with us today. Thank you Prime Minister.

Lucy and I were delighted to welcome you and Clarke to our home last night for dinner and it was terrific. It was great to have you both in our home, and I was very pleased to host the Annual Leaders Dialogue this morning.

Now your visit, of course, coincides with a very historic announcement, and indeed a shared interest of our two countries — ensuring that we do more to deliver low emission sources of reliable and dispatchable energy.

And as you know the Commonwealth Government has agreed to acquire the shares of Victoria and New South Wales in Snowy Hydro. So the great Snowy Mountains Scheme, Snowy Hydro, will be wholly owned by the Commonwealth of Australia and that is in preparation for Snowy Hydro 2.0.

The next stage, adding initially 50 per cent to the capacity of Snowy Hydro, with over 40kms of tunnels, building the biggest pumped hydro scheme in the world. And we will need the best tunellers and the best engineers to do that work.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we have today one of the best. We have here today, second-class tunneller - with outstanding experience on the Eucumbene Island Bed Tunnel from 1970, second-class tunneller Winston Peters back again!

He’s ready to go! Prime Minister you might have to give him a little leave. Just occasionally, perhaps he could come over on weekends and do a bit of tunnelling.

[Laughter]

New Zealand, of course is Australia’s most comprehensive relationship.

When we come together as leaders we renew bonds that are over a hundred years in the making. They go back from the very beginnings of the settlements – European settlements in Australia. And indeed as I was saying today, it was Maori entrepreneurs who were selling food and vital supplies to the struggling colony here in Australia. And with that enterprise of course continues and that’s one of the reasons why that indigenous business partnership is so important.

You know a Lowy Institute poll recently asked Australians how warmly they feel towards other countries, New Zealand topped the thermometer at 85 degrees.

This presumably wasn’t co-incidental with a Rugby match but anyway, nonetheless they hit the high point.

We’re separated by a turbulent stretch of ocean but we have the same values.

Those values are the values that the ANZACs of 100 years ago fought for and died for and over that century we fought together to defend. One hundred years ago at Beersheba and at Gallipoli — and today Iraq, where the Australians and the New Zealanders are training the soldiers and the police for Iraq who are securing their freedom.

Now these values have fostered the business connections that have lifted the living standards of both our countries.

And they have inspired us as strategic partners to defend and promote the rules based order, because it is good for our nations, and good for our region.

The rule of law is critical. It is the foundation of the prosperity that we’ve all enjoyed. Peace, security in our region and indeed around the world. We have a vital vested interest in maintaining it.

In the last 20 years, GDP per capita has grown by around 40 per cent in both Australia and New Zealand.

And the extension of this rules based order, the rules of the road, that almost all of us in the Indo-Pacific has helped generate the greatest burst of economic growth, innovation and human advancement the world has ever seen.

Global trade has tripled and more than a billion people have been lifted out of extreme poverty since 1990. GDP per capita has quadrupled in China and nearly doubled in South Korea.

But we can’t take this economic prosperity for granted.

The economic, political and strategic currents that have carried us for generations are increasingly difficult to navigate.

Economic nationalism is on the rise.

And the siren call of protectionism challenges the consensus that a global trading regime—based on openness and clear rules that apply to all—benefits all.

Now Australia is proud to stand alongside New Zealand, staunch partners against these rising tides. We remain committed to market integration, based on strong, transparent rules, fair and open competition, predictable and non-discriminatory regulation.

Free trade and economic integration have benefited our nations enormously.

Trade means jobs and it’s no surprise that our Closer Economic Relations Trade Agreement is one of the most comprehensive in existence and remains the gold standard for trade liberalisation.

We’ve also strengthened the Trans-Tasman Single Economic Market agenda. Australia is New Zealand’s largest two-way trading partner and more than 75 per cent of New Zealand’s exporting businesses, derive income from exporting to Australia. In return, more Australian businesses export to New Zealand than to any other country.

And despite its smaller population New Zealand is our sixth-largest trading partner; a nation just a tenth the size of most others in our top ten.

But our relationship is about more than trading in goods and services.

We’re making it easier and more efficient for people, money and ideas to move between our two countries. We need look no further than infrastructure services company, Downer, a shining example of a company flourishing on both sides of the Tasman. Downer maintains more than 33,000 km of road in Australia and more than 25,000 in New Zealand. Downer helped rebuild telecommunications, roads and utilities in Christchurch after the 2011 earthquake, as well as roads and infrastructure after the Kaikoura earthquake in 2016.

Then there’s Woolworths, known in New Zealand as Countdown. We can’t get enough of New Zealand’s fresh produce, you are rightly proud of your reputation for producing top quality food and wine, rivalled only perhaps, by our own.

Now, Woolies and Countdown don't just have great produce in common, they are also breeding grounds for politicians on either side of the Tasman and both sides of the political fence. Countdown helped nurture a future New Zealand Prime Minister in Jacinda Ardern and Woolworths gave NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian her start.

I have to say, that one of my first jobs was only a few hundred metres from here in the days of the fruit and vegetable markets were here in Haymarket, working for a Les J Walters, a banana merchant. So clearly fruit and vegetables are the right foundation for political leaders.

[Laughter]

Now, Woolworths is Australia’s biggest customer for New Zealand food imports, importing more than 50 per cent of the $650 million worth of New Zealand wine sold in Australia last year. And it’s a two-way street; Countdown imports our grapes, watermelons and mangoes and 25 tons of prawns. Since Woolworths acquired Countdown, it has invested $2.4 billion in capital expenditure and plans to invest another $500 million in new stores and upgrading existing stores.  Woolies and Countdown are trading and investing in each other - creating jobs in both our countries.

They’re just two examples, but there are more than 18,000 great stories, one for every Australian business operating in, or exporting to New Zealand as Prime Minister Ardern observed earlier today, most of them small businesses.

The small and medium businesses that are driving the 403,000 jobs growth we saw last year, the 16th consecutive monthly jobs growth numbers that we’ve seen, the longest since we kept records of this. 403,000, the largest job growth in our history, that’s being powered by small and medium Australian businesses, overwhelmingly family-owned and benefitting from our corporation tax cuts which are benefitting those businesses.

You know, companies that turn over $50 million dollars a year or less, they’re not corporate giants. They are not, but they employ more than half of the Australian workforce. Think about it; they’re the firms that are getting the incentives from our Enterprise Tax Cuts and they’re responding with investment and jobs and so many of them are exporting across the Tasman and around the world.

Now, New Zealand and Australia have been staunch supporters of the Trans Pacific Partnership - and I want to pay credit to Prime Minister Ardern for the support she’s shown - but also, to her predecessors John Key and Bill English.

In fact in Lema about 18 months ago, after the election of President Trump it was obvious the United States was going to pull out of the TPP, there were a lot of people who said it was dead; that it was pointless to pursue it. Now John Key and I didn’t think that was right, we didn’t think there was any point letting all that work go to waste and we plugged away at it.

We secured the support of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and with the energy that he and Japan brought to it, we now have the TPP11 being signed on the 8th of March in Chile. For our part, by our Trade Minister Steven Ciobo, who is here today. This is an enormous credit to you.

[Applause]

As I said in Washington, this provides a live option to the United States. The fact is the TPP11 is designed so that other countries can dock in. The US could return at some point, I don’t think they’ll do so any time soon but the UK has expressed interest as many other nations in the region have. But if we had allowed it to die, to wither then, there would have been no TPP for other countries to dock into. That’s been a very important step and a great example of Australia-New Zealand cooperation, promoting the free trade that our economies thrive on.

Now talking about our own country, in Australia about one in five workers are employed in a trade-related activity. Over the last 30 years, because of trade liberalization, real GDP is 5.4 per cent higher than it otherwise would be, real wages are nearly 7.5 per cent higher and prices are nearly 3.5 per cent lower than they otherwise would be.

So that’s why our side of politics always supports free trade and always will. The best way to do that is by backing businesses with policies that support them. Those tax cuts that we have delivered already, are delivering more investment and more jobs. We seek to extend them to all companies, but of course, unlike Prime Minister Ardern who has a single chamber Parliament, we will have to continue negotiating with the Senate and we look forward to support there from the crossbench at least.

Now we are also committed to the conclusion of a high-quality Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, RCEP, which would draw together ASEAN, India, China, Japan and Korea.  A high quality agreement would improve governance standards and spur reform.

Later this month I will be welcoming ASEAN leaders at the first ASEAN-Australia Special Summit in Sydney.

That’s going to be an unprecedented opportunity to reinforce our strategic partnership with our neighbors in ASEAN. ASEAN has been a remarkable regional success and importantly, its used its influence over time to support and maintain the rule of law.

So we Australia – and I know, Prime Minister Ardern will endorse this - we will always have our eyes trained on the world stage.  But we will never lessen the focus on our own relationship and the need to nurture and enhance it. In an increasingly uncertain world, our ability to work together in the pursuit of common goals, will help ensure security and prosperity in the region and around the world.

Our discussions today have reinforced the determination of our countries to work even more closely together, defending and advancing our values and objectives. But after the documents are signed and the politicians and the diplomats have congratulated each other – and even become exhausted with selfies, it is the people of our two nations who make this partnership what it is.

Everyone here knows what I’m talking about; it’s you, your effort, your enterprise, your connections that make our partnership so successful. 

So thank you for the work of this forum and for all you’re doing to continue to bring two staunch allies, two great friends closer and closer in the years to come. 

Thank you very much.

[Applause]

[ENDS]