General Debate Statement, Indian Ocean Rim Association 13th Council of Ministers Meeting

Speech, E&OE, (check against delivery)


1 November 2013

Australia is proud and honoured to be chair of the newly named Indian Ocean Rim Association – IORA.

It is fitting that Australia's two year term as IORA chair commences in Perth, our dynamic Indian Ocean capital.

The Indian Ocean is the world's third largest ocean and the lifeline of our international trade and economy.

  • It's a region that has been woven together by trade routes and sea lanes for hundreds of years
  • Now, it carries half of the world's container ships, one-third of the bulk cargo traffic and two-thirds of the oil shipments

The Indian Ocean Rim's population is close to two billion people.

The stability and prosperity of the Indian Ocean region is increasingly important globally.

For example, the World Bank estimates that piracy costs the global economy around US$18 billion a year in increased trade costs – an amount that dwarfs the estimated US$53 million average annual ransom paid.

lORA must play its part in developing better maritime security across the region, fostering economic growth and sustainable development.

lORA is the only body with a broad-based agenda and a membership that spans the Indian Ocean region.

However, compared to many other regional bodies, our Association has delivered relatively modest outcomes.

India has made good ground in building the stature of our association.

It is incumbent now on Australia, with vice-chair Indonesia, to inject the dynamism I believe is necessary to drive further progress on policy and administrative fronts.

Australia's future lies in the Indo-Pacific, so we have every reason to build lORA's capacity and influence.

Australia wants to ensure that your nation's membership of lORA brings positive benefits that justify an investment of effort and resources.

Together, we need to lift our ambition and work with renewed vigour, focus and resolve, for the challenges and opportunities we face in the Indian Ocean region are increasingly complex.

Our role, as ministers and heads of delegation, is to ensure that lORA is relevant to our respective national interests and to the peace and prosperity of the Indian Ocean Rim.

Thematic officials, experts and scientists – not just our foreign and trade/commerce ministries – must be enlisted in support of this.

We are a diverse group, but we have much in common – including a shared commitment to the peaceful, sustainable use of this magnificent ocean.

Our proposed 'Perth Principles' Declaration captures this commitment. There is much useful work also to be done in lORA's six agreed priority areas.

Today I am committing Australia to funding and delivering a package of activities and initiatives across most of these themes, of $1.175 million.

Within the six priority areas, I also see room to focus on broader issues including women's economic empowerment and educational exchanges.

One in three international students studying in Australia comes from the Indian Ocean Rim. This highlights the education linkages that I believe we can enhance. The Australian Government's signature policy the New Colombo Plan will enable young Australians to benefit from deeper learning experiences in the • region, by giving them the opportunity to study in their undergraduate years at universities in the Indo-Pacific region.

For over 30 years, from the 1950s to the 1980s, the original Colombo Plan saw 40,000 students from across the region study in Australia. Today they are leaders in their own countries. Our new Colombo Plan will send our young people to live and learn in the region – coming home with new skills, ideas and perspectives and lifelong friendships and networks that will not only be a rewarding experience for the individual, but will build deeper engagement between nations.

Working collaboratively with member states, Australia wants to not only sharpen IORA's work program but also its way of doing business.

We believe lORA's institutional arrangements should be strengthened so members can work more effectively together.

And I hope that our member states can engage the deeper interest and the undoubted expertise of lORA's Dialogue Partners and I warmly welcome their representatives today.

Our future, individually, collectively, lies in the Indian Ocean region.

So we have every reason to seek to grasp to the fullest the opportunity that a refreshed IORA now presents.


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