Launch of Ministerial Statement on Engaging the private sector in aid and development

  • Speech, check against delivery

Good morning ladies and gentlemen. I acknowledge my friend and colleague Teresa Gambaro, Peter Varghese the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Joanne thank you for being the MC this morning.

Fighting poverty and lifting standards of living starts with boosting economic growth, and economic growth is driven by a dynamic and productive private sector. In developing countries around the world the private sector accounts for 60 per cent of Gross Domestic Product, 80 per cent of capital flows, and 90 per cent of jobs. This is a reality that was not readily recognised or understood in our aid program.

Since coming to office the Coalition has changed our focus and how we deliver foreign aid. First we integrated the former AusAID into the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to ensure a closer alignment of aid, trade and foreign policy priorities, capabilities, resources and focus.

In July 2014 I launched our new aid policy together with performance benchmarks to better reflect global realities.I call it the new aid paradigm. This new aid paradigm is characterised by an increasingly interconnected world in which countries are looking for new and innovative way to meet development challenges.

In March 2015 I announced the establishment within DFAT of the innovationXchange – brining our best and most innovative thinkers together to come up with creative ways to solve seemingly intractable development challenges in our region.

We're even in a different geographic location, just over the road from DFAT – but the environment is more Google and Facebook than RG Casey.

The innovationXchange is piloting a range of proposed solutions – those that work will be scaled up and rolled out across our region.If the pilots aren't successful we will cut our loses and learn from the experience.

This is an unusual approach in private sector funding. One early achievement is a $100 million partnership with Bloomberg Philanthropies. This Data for Health partnership will use the latest technologies to collect and use data to inform and improve health sector policy in developing countries – in a surprising number of countries, births are not recorded, neither is cause of death.Health policies must be evidence-based. This is a great example of 'matched funding' between Government and non-Government – of the $100 million partnership $80 million has come from Bloomberg and $20 from the Australian Government.That is my kind of ratio!

Pressure on donor budgets is forcing Governments to rethink how to increase the impact of aid with fewer resources.We are determined to do more with less.Our aid budget is around $4 billion a year. But foreign direct investment now dwarfs foreign government aid dollars in developing countries.

Private sector investment is growing, remittances from Australia, for example, to the Pacific far exceed our aid, and so our aid program now envisages the private sector as a core part of our foreign aid policy. This morning I invite you to become partners in the next phase of the new aid paradigm.

This Statement, that's on your tables, on Engaging the Private Sector: Creating shared value through partnership refines how we think of aid and development.By bringing the private sector in as a partner in our development program, we are opening up a world of new possibilities and opportunities.

Just this week, Fortune Magazine released its first ever "Change the World" list of 50 companies who address major social problems as a core part of their business strategy. The concept of aligning business processes with social impact is moving further into the mainstream. The idea that business and government can work together to build strong and resilient countries is not new.I am giving it a sharper focus as a core element of our aid program.

Today, we gather at the corporate headquarters of Australia's first bank, one that started its life with a focus on banking throughout the Pacific and is still very active in the region today. And I acknowledge the leadership Westpac continues to show in our region on financial and economic issues. The Government has teamed up with Westpac to give people greater access to finance and support private sector development in countries in our region.

In Papua New Guinea and Fiji, we are rolling out financial services via mobile phones – branchless banking – making a real difference to the lives of farmers and small business owners, many of them women, many of them live in remote areas. We know that government and NGOs cannot address in isolation the immense challenges faced by the Indo-Pacific region. We can utilise Government experience, resources and skills to mobilise the private sector – particularly to support two other critical priorities of our aid program – infrastructure to enhance productivity, and the economic empowerment of women, to capture their skills and productivity.

We know there are limits – we do not expect businesses to make investments when the risks far outweigh the returns, but there are significant opportunities. Our Government has listened to business and, I believe, we understand the central role of business in regional development.

The quality of submissions to the recent Joint Standing Committee inquiry into the role of the private sector and aid demonstrates what business has to offer development efforts in the region.

And existing public-private partnerships have shown promise.Let me give you some examples: In our region, the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research – ACIAR, an agency under my portfolio and a real jewel within DFAT– has teamed up with business to drive agricultural productivity and poverty reduction.

In PNG, Australia's support for the Business Coalition for Women enables businesses to improve opportunities for women to move into senior management positions and on to company boards and develops opportunities for female entrepreneurs.Members of the coalition include Oil Search, Exxonmobile, South Pacific Brewery and Deloitte.

Globally, Australia is working with leading biotech and pharmaceutical companies, including Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline to combat malaria. These partnerships have shown some initial success.

But the Statement I am launching today articulates for the first time a clear vision for embracing public-private partnerships as part of our aid program. We are already working towards creating a better business operating environment in partner countries.

The Australian Government can help business better understand the commercial, political and regulatory environment in developing countries. We can convene, broker and influence an extensive network to assist you and we have the capability to provide what we call catalytic funding.

Business has made it clear to us that they understand our responsibility to ensure taxpayer contributions are spent in the most effective way possible.So please treat this statement as an invitation to the private sector to partner with Government in developing countries.

Of course, I especially want to work closely with the local private sector in the countries in which Australia delivers aid – the Indian Ocean, Asia-Pacific. Your contribution to boosting local economies will transform lives.

I would also like Australian businesses themselves to take up the challenge of partnering with Government.Your organisations have deliberately and publically made the decision to build a future on generating commercial, social and environmental outcomes, not on a narrow focus on short term financial returns.

This morning I am pleased to announce the establishment of a Business Partnership Initiative. This is the first of its kind for Australia's aid program.

Government has not traditionally welcomed the private sector as co-creators of development solutions. I believe private sector improvement is imperative and I invite business to bring their ideas and resources to the table and to jointly explore with us how to address development challenges.

The first call for proposals will be this October and $5 million in funding is available for individual proposals which can receive between $100,000 and $500,000 in matched funding. I encourage those of you with ideas already percolating away to find out more about the Initiative and continue refining your ideas.

2015 will be a watershed year for development. At the end of September, Australia will join with all nations to endorse the Sustainable Development Goals as the new global framework for development.

Australia has played an active role to ensure that the private sector are core partners in achieving the SDGs. The UN Global Compact is the peak body linking business to the UN system and Global Compact members have been extremely influential in shaping the new SDGs.

I am pleased to also announce this morning that I will formally sign a new partnership with the Global Compact Network Australia to support more Australian businesses in their efforts to drive sustainable development in the Indo-Pacific.

The Australian Government recognises the strong commitment business is already making and is keen to lend what support we can to help you in your efforts. It is for this reason that we are also announcing our partnership with the Global Reporting Initiative today, the world's pre-eminent sustainability reporting forum.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is an exciting time in the evaluation of Australia's aid and development policy.Today we have brought together an influential group of business and NGO leaders; and the Government's trade promotion, finance, research, foreign policy and development experts.

The Coalition Government hopes to open up a new world of possibilities with the private sector, both in Australia and overseas through a new era of partnership and cooperation.

I look forward to working with you all.

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