Address to Australian Outlook luncheon

  • Speech

Among many wonderful evenings I have spent in this city, and this is my seventh visit as Foreign Minister, last night was one of the most memorable.

Our Consul General Nick Minchin invited a dozen young Australians - who are making their mark in New York - to come to dinner and BYOA - Bring Your Own American - a mentor, a partner, someone from this great city who has been integral to their great success.

A young Aussie surfer who is bringing Australia's surfing culture to New York and is selling our fashion and lifestyle - and that is no mean feat in the middle of a New York winter, an Aussie photographer and film maker who has made it to the top of his profession -

Events promoters, fashion designers, authors, restauranteurs, top models, bloggers - in a city where such talent is recognised and appreciated - and they epitomised all of the qualities that enterprising Australians offer the world.

They're smart. They're savvy. They work hard but they are low maintenance. They're unpretentious. They just get on with it and don't take no for an answer. They push boundaries to see what can be achieved. They're fearless but they're friendly. There is an innovative spirit at the heart of the Australian people.

After all we are the people that brought to the world: the black box flight recorder, the ubiquitous Wi-Fi, penicillin, spray-on skin, the pacemaker, the bionic ear, ultrasound medical scanners, and Google Maps - yes that was one of ours!

We bring this innovation to our traditional economic strengths in mining, energy, resources and agriculture.

We have introduced world-leading technology in these traditional sectors.

But we have amazing strengths within our less known yet highly diverse and creative industries.

Australian fashion designer Johanna Johnson is working to build a brand based on high quality garments manufactured in Australia.

In 2011 she created a simply stunning gown and on a rather cheeky whim packaged it up and sent it Christina Hendricks the gorgeous actor from Mad Men - "here's your gown".

Sure enough Christina indeed wore it for a red carpet event and now Johanna counts among her customers Madonna, P!nk, Angelina Jolie, Meryl Streep, Halle Berry, Jessica Biel, Jennifer Lopez, Emily Blunt and Her Serene Highness The Princess of Monaco.

Johanna does all this out of a tiny workshop in the Sydney suburb of Paddington.

Every one of her fabulous garments is lovingly designed, created and stitched and - proudly made in Australia.

In my home State of Western Australia, a small shipbuilder established in 1988, inspired by the principle of producing high-quality and innovatively conceived aluminium vessels, now has manufacturing operations in Western Australia, Alabama and the Philippines and has built more than 200 vessels and is supplying the US navy with combat ships.

It is innovation and creativity that has underpinned Austal's success.

So these are just two examples among the hundreds of small, medium and large enterprises in Australia that are developing leading edge technologies and top quality products, with a number of world leaders in their fields.

Australia has many advantages for those pursuing investment and business opportunities.

Let me explain what it is that makes us different.

We are practical yet creative. Australians have an individualistic streak, some might say idiosyncratic, that flows from our pioneering past and the state of mind that comes from our early isolation as an island continent.

Contemporary Australia owes much to the fact that our early European settlers were vast distances from their homelands and were forced to rely on their own resources for their very survival.

This led to a culture of innovation, resourcefulness and ingenuity that persists to this day. And Americans can easily see themselves in us, in that regard.

We still live on a large and sparsely populated continent, with our population of 23 million, comparable to New York State.

Our people are our greatest natural resource. Their enterprise is our greatest asset. This human capital drives our economic growth.

Australia has recorded more than 23 years consecutive years of economic growth, and we are on track for the 24thconsecutive year.

This is unparalleled in comparable economies.

Australia is forecast to have average annual real GDP growth of three per cent over the next four years.

We are the world's 13th largest economy, rated triple 'A' by all three global rating agencies, increasingly tied to fast-growing economies in Asia

We are a sophisticated, connected, diversified and service based economy with 16 of our industries rating above the global average for their high productivity levels.

While we are renown for our world class mining, energy resources and agriculture sectors, we will be an important contributor in six sectors that can be expected to drive future global growth - agribusiness, education, tourism, mining, health and medical services and wealth management.

In fact the Australian funds management industry now has more than $2.3 trillion in funds under management - the third largest in the world, and the largest in Asia.

Australia's Treasury has recently described the major transformation of our economy from significant reliance on growth led by investment in the resources sector to broader-based activity in the non-resource sectors.

Our Treasury forecasts that growth will remain strong during this transition.

And we can rely on our people and their creativity and enterprise to drive this growth.

Our creative spirit is underpinned by the very strong education and training sector - and as a former Minister for Education I am keenly aware of the efforts of our universities and colleges to foster entrepreneurship and flair in our students.

More than 70% of Australians aged 25-44 have post-school qualifications - from university degrees to technical skills.

Importantly, Australia has been successful at harnessing the potential of people from across all facets of our society.

The OECD has reported that upward mobility is a significant feature of Australia's education system. As many as 41% of 25-34 year-olds who have attained tertiary education despite coming from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds and having parents with low levels of education. This is the highest proportion among the 30 OECD countries.

Our strong education system has attracted hundreds of thousands of students from our region and beyond, which helps build our trading and investment links as those students return to their homes with professional qualifications from Australia.

These links have helped Australia build its diversified trading base that has enabled us to remain strong through the economic shocks that came from the Asian financial crisis of the late 1990s, the tech bubble crash, September 11 attacks on this great city and the 2008 sub-prime banking crisis.

Our economy powered through.

Australia offers significant opportunities for international investors to engage at the start of what is now another exciting phase in Australia's economic journey.

One of the most promising sectors for investment is tourism.

The latest statistics show that there were 6.8 million visitors to our shores for the year ending September 2014, which was an increase of well over eight per cent on the previous year.

Inbound international tourists contributed more than $30 billion to the Australian economy.

There are other compelling reasons to invest down under.

We are in the same or similar time zones as most of Asia, with my home town of Perth in Western Australia in the same time zone as Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore and Manila.

Australia has a huge advantage in working with Asia as our working days align.

Australia is a great launch pad for doing business in Asia because travel to Asia from Australia is less taxing. We just don't do jet lag.

Asia will continue to be a key driver of global growth with burgeoning demand from its middle class growing from 500 million potential consumers today to 3.2 billion by 2030.

Our economic links to three Asian giants of China, Japan and South Korea are set to expand exponentially in coming years as the impact of our recently completed Free Trade Agreements with all three of these countries take effect.

Australia is the place for American companies to base or expand their operations into Asia.

I do have one warning for you particularly if you're thinking of sending staff to Australia.

They just might not come home!

The Economist recently rated Melbourne as the world's most liveable city, with Australia having four of the top ten most liveable cities in the world, including Sydney, Perth, and Adelaide.

According to the BBC Australia is a superpower - a "Lifestyle Superpower".

We have cosmopolitan cities, high quality cuisine and wines, a pristine environment, with endless white beaches, the best surf on earth - and yes we've got the koalas.

We are an egalitarian society.

We encourage reward for effort.

We offer opportunity for those who want to work hard and improve their living standards.

We have high levels of ethnic diversity and social harmony.

We are stable, reliable, with absolute rule of law, and your intellectual and human capital is and will be well protected.

The World Bank ranks Australia in the top 10 for Ease of Doing Business and for Ease of Starting a Business, and in the top five for Ease of Obtaining Credit for business.

Australia as a Twitter hash tag should be perpetually trending!

Since coming to office in September 2013, the Coalition Government has been very busy making it even easier to do business and invest in Australia.

We are cutting the red tape that strangles business activity and holds back entrepreneurs and investors.

We hold "Repeal Days" in our parliament where the only government business of the day is repealing legislation - getting government out the way.

11,000 pieces of legislation, 57,000 pages of regulations have already gone, saving businesses more than $2 billion and there will be more.

We know that by government doing less, business can do more.

Go to the website and tell us what more we can do.

We're open for business and open for your input.

We've abolished taxes - the carbon tax - the world's highest economy-wide tax, and we've abolished the mining tax.

And we welcome and encourage foreign investment.

While the United States is already by far our largest foreign investor there are more opportunities as we plan to open up the northern regions of Australia for development.

You see, in the north of Australia we have huge tracts of land, abundant fresh water and close access to the growing middle class in Asia.

Just five per cent of our population of 23 million lives in northern Australia, yet ports in the north handle 55 per cent of our exports.

There are world-class tourist facilities, agricultural enterprises, mining and fisheries - but all have great potential for further expansion.

A strong and growing northern economy will bring benefits to our nation as a whole and will inevitably support increasing numbers of jobs, investment in infrastructure and provision of services.

It is forecast that by 2040, northern Australia will account for more than 40 per cent of Australia's total economy.

This will be a phenomenal economic opportunity - the time to get involved is now!

So Australia offers a very creative innovative skilled and educated workforce.

Ours is a sophisticated, stable and connected economy on the doorstep of one of the most dynamic regions in the world.

I've just spent a few days in Washington and have met representatives at the highest levels on Capitol Hill and in the White House and we share so many common threats, common challenges and opportunities.

We are the closest of allies and partners - ours is a relationship like no other.

But can I say to those in the room today, finally and most importantly - you will be doing business with friends.

Media enquiries