Keynote address at the opening ceremony of the 2018 Global Summit of Women

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JULIE BISHOP: Excellencies, distinguished delegates, I am so delighted to see you here and I give a special shout out to each and every woman delegate here because I am confident that with the enthusiasm of our organising committee and the dynamism of our delegates from across the world, the 2018 Global Summit of Women will be the most fabulously successful ever.

I add my welcome to you to Australia, to Sydney, the capital of the state of New South Wales. You are in one of the most liveable cities on the planet, along with every other Australian state capital city. Australia is renowned as a mining and energy powerhouse. We are a leading agricultural nation. But what you might not realise is that Australia is a superpower - a lifestyle superpower! During your time in Sydney please take a break from the busy schedule and enjoy this beautiful city, the cuisine, the shopping, the sightseeing, the Bridge, the Harbour, the beaches. Enjoy your time here.

Australia is a great place to do business. 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 trade our high quality goods and services around the world. We welcome foreign investment into this country and we are an attractive destination for foreign investment for we have a stable regulatory and political environment, an educated workforce, world class scientific, education and research institutions and a dynamic private sector that drives economic growth in this country.

We are 24 million people, 53rd in terms of population size but we are the 13th largest economy in the world. Australia has broken a world record. We are in our 27th consecutive year of uninterrupted economic growth. No other country has ever achieved that, but it doesn't happen by accident. We are committed to transparency, good governance and open trade and investment, engaging with our friends and partners around the world.

I believe that no nation can reach its potential unless it fully engages with the skills and talents and energy and ideals of the 50 per cent of the population that is female. The fact is, one of the best things that governments around the world can do to drive economic growth, to build stronger communities, to lift standards of living, is to achieve gender equality. Arguably, this can be quantified because research shows that gender inequality, gender based bias, discrimination or violence decreases economic and social growth and has an impact on the global economy.

In 2015 McKinsey's prepared a report that found that of the unpaid work around the world, 75 per cent of it was carried out by women, but if you put a value on that unpaid work, it would be $10 trillion. In 2017 the World Bank found that domestic violence reduced global GDP by about 4 per cent because of the loss of productivity. The ILO, the International Labour Organisation, found that global GDP could increase by $6 trillion if the gap between male and female participation decreased by just a quarter.

As Australia's first female Foreign Minister I am acutely aware of the need to ensure that there are more women in decision-making positions at home, in our region, and globally. Australia has been a trail blazer in the empowerment of women. Way back in 1902 we were the first nation to simultaneously grant women the right to vote and to stand for election to our national Parliament. Admittedly, it took us another 41 years for the first woman to be elected to the Federal Parliament, and that was Dame Enid Lyons. She obviously had very strong genes because her granddaughter Libby Lyons was appointed by our government to be the head of Australia's Workplace Gender Equality Agency and Libby is one of the delegates here tonight.

As a Government, we have committed to ensuring that there is gender equality on the boards and councils where the Federal Government appoints the members. We aim for 50 per cent female representation on all the Government appointed boards and councils and agencies and the like. We are getting there, we are now at about 44.5 per cent - a little way to go but the commitment is there.

In terms of elected members of Parliament, the story is not as bright. Currently about 32 per cent of our Federal Parliamentarians are women but globally the average is about 25 per cent and as my sisters from the Pacific Island nations know too well, the representation of women in national parliaments in the Pacific Islands is about 7 percent. We have much more we can do in that regard.

When I became Foreign Minister I placed the issue of gender empowerment at the heart of our foreign policy initiatives and aspirations. Whether it be through our advocacy for women in our membership of the UN Human Rights Council, whether it's through our support for global initiatives in the UN's Women Peace and Security programmes, or whether it is through our foreign aid programme.

I mandated that 80 per cent of our foreign aid budget that are projects and initiatives in our region - whatever else their objectives - had to take into account the impact on women and girls in their implementation. Let me just give you a little example. We had a road building project in Timor-Leste and the idea was to skill the local people to build this road and then they would derive qualifications and continue on to help build Timor-Leste. I noted that all of the participants in the training program were men and I asked the obvious question; what about the women? It hadn't been thought of before so we actively sought out women to participate in the training program for building roads, driving bulldozers, being the site managers, the supervisors. I can confirm that now 30 per cent of the intake are women. We are on our way to 50 per cent.

Our aid program in relation to women is built on three pillars: first, our initiatives and policies and funding are directed towards ensuring women's economic empowerment, ensuring that women are part of the formal labour market in Pacific countries.

Secondly, we are working to address, to combat the scourge of gender based violence. No nation is immune but we direct our aid program, particularly in the Indo-Pacific, the Indian Ocean Asia Pacific, to combatting this issue.

Third, we focus on supporting women take leadership positions in their families, in their communities, in business, in government. We have a dedicated Ambassador for Women and Girls, Dr Sharman Stone and her role is to advocate gender equality in our region, to demonstrate the benefits of giving women and girls an opportunity.

I am an avowed supporter of mentoring programs and last year I was proud to announce that the Australian Government is funding a Women's Leadership Program between women in the Pacific and women in Australia. This is a formal mentoring program and we identified potential emerging female leaders from our Pacific Island friends and we paired them with an Australian leader in politics, business, NGOs, and the mentor-mentee relationships are working. Our sisters in the Pacific are working with our mentors in Australia to ensure that they can reach their full potential.

Globally I have been so impressed by the way women leaders are coming together. We know that every September the United Nations General Assembly has a Leader's week where all the Foreign Ministers from around the world attending UNGA Leaders Week. Over the last few years there has been an informal meeting, a dinner, held by the female foreign ministers and we get together to talk about the issues of the day. I used to reflect on how different the discussions were, for during the day we would discuss counter-terrorism sitting with a group of 24-25 male foreign ministers. At night, over dinner, 24-25 female foreign ministers would be discussing the same topic but the perspective, the lived experience, the ideas were so vastly different.

This year we decided to make it more formal. Four days ago Frederica Mogherini, the High Representative of the European Union, and Chrystia Freeland, the female Foreign Minister of Canada, announced that this September, in Canada, for the very first time there will be a full meeting of the female foreign ministers of the world, all 32 of us. This Summit will bring together, for the first time, the unique perspectives and ideas that female foreign ministers bring to the global and regional challenges that we face.

There is so much more that we can all do. Institutional commitments to gender equality help, targets and goals and aspirations also help, mentors and role models play their part but each one of us, every man and woman, every girl and boy can play a part in ensuring that men and women, girls and boys, are able to engage globally, regionally, and at home, equally.

I charge this Summit to commit anew to that task. I am honoured to declare open the 2018 Global Summit of Women.

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