Clayton Utz International Bar Association Reception

  • Speech, check against delivery

I am absolutely delighted to be here this evening with my former partners and colleagues at Clayton Utz.

I well recall the air miles that I travelled to attend legal conferences far from home, so for those of you who have come from overseas and made the intrepid journey to Sydney, please take time to explore this dynamic, contemporary and beautiful city.

You may not often think of Australia as a superpower, but there is no doubt that we are a lifestyle superpower.

Ladies and gentlemen, this conference brings together lawyers from all over the globe, and globalisation has brought us closer together than ever before.

Globalisation means that we need a robust international legal system more than ever before.

After the end of World War II, the United States and its partners and allies established a rules-based order to create a world out of chaos that would guide the behaviour of nations, particularly towards each other.

International law is at the foundation of this rules-based order, and it is an interconnected network of treaties and laws and institutions and alliances and friendships and relationships and networks.

It impacts on every aspect of our lives from global trade to human rights, from eliminating disease to the transfer of patents, from the path of aeroplanes to conserving our coral reefs. The international rules-based order affects our everyday lives.

It has also contributed to what diplomats call the "Long Peace", and that has enabled over the last 70 years the greatest economic expansion in human history, and has enabled hundreds of millions of people to be lifted out of poverty.

But the international rules-based order is under strain. There are states who seek to subvert or avoid or ignore it.

Much of this is manifest in the rise of powers, the rivalry and competition between great powers, manifest by the emerging economic competition, as economic power moves from the West to the East.

China is now the world's second largest economy, East Asia is the manufacturing hub for the world, and India is the fastest growing economy.

This rebalancing of power brings with it new challenges. New disputes are emerging, existing disputes are resurfacing – some are decades old, some centuries old, some commercial, some territorial.

Non-state actors are challenging our order, whether it be transnational corporations operating across borders, or whether it's transnational crime or terrorists seeking to establish caliphates over the territory of sovereign nations.

And new challenges are emerging. The new frontier of cyberspace. We must convince nations to acknowledge that activities in cyberspace should be governed by the same set of rules as govern military and security activities in traditional domains.

Of course we champion a free and open and secure internet, but in the interests of the security of our nations and our people, cyberspace cannot be an ungoverned space.

The international legal regime aims for stability and certainty and predictability, and that gives certainty to our international financial markets, to our investment regime.

Take an example of the extent of global collaboration – the smartphone. Designed, assembled, traded across many nations before it reaches your pocket and manufactured under a set of stringent standards and rules and laws to ensure that there is consistency and that the smartphone connect across continents.

Now Australia has undoubtedly been the beneficiary of the international rules-based order. We are setting a world record – Australia is in its 27th consecutive year of economic growth. No other economy in the world has matched that.

We are an open, liberal democracy committed to freedoms, the rule of law and democratic institutions. We are an open, export-oriented market economy. We sell our goods and services around the world. We are always searching for new markets, enhancing existing markets. We have free trade agreements with the United States, China, Japan, Korea, Singapore, New Zealand and more. We attract foreign direct investment and global capital, and we are open to skilled workers. In fact a number of you may not know this but over half the Australian population was either born overseas or has one parent born overseas – as a number of our politicians are discovering.

We also want to ensure that young Australians are global citizens and so our Government has established what I called the New Colombo Plan, and this is a program that supports undergraduates at our universities to live and study and undertake an internship in one of 38 countries in our region. Law undergraduates working in law firms in Tokyo, medical undergraduates working in hospitals in Cambodia, engineering students working in the Mines Department in Indonesia.

Over the four years of this program, more than 30,000 young Australians are living and studying and undertaking work experience in one of 38 countries in our region. This is an investment in our future, this is an investment in our part of the world.

We could not do this without the umbrella of the international rules-based order, and you as members of the global legal community are to be commended for upholding the rule of law and gathering to talk about ways we can ensure peace, stability and security for our planet.

Ladies and gentlemen, I wish you all the very best in your deliberations. I congratulate Clayton Utz for bringing you here this evening and I hope you take the time to enjoy beautiful Sydney.

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