Statement to High Level Private Sector Partnership Forum

  • Speech, E&OE, (check against delivery)

Good Afternoon.

GA President, UN Secretary General, UN Under-Secretary General, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

I am absolutely delighted to be back in Samoa and I want to thank the Prime Minister for his gracious and friendly hospitality that is so renowned in the Pacific. It's wonderful to be here at this Forum.

I think this will be one of the most important forums of the next few days because private sector led economic growth is a vital issue for us to discuss - the challenges and the opportunities - particularly so for Small Island Developing States. So having this discussion at this point in proceedings will assist the framing of the Conference over the next few days.

The Australian people through their Government have long been supporters of development in the Pacific and beyond.

From the time of my appointment as Australia's Foreign Minister last September, I have embraced what I call "economic diplomacy" and put that overarching principle at the very heart of our international engagement.

Just as traditional diplomacy aims for peace, economic diplomacy aims for peace and prosperity.

Our purpose in promoting, sustainable economic growth through trade, investment and a strong private sector is not only for Australia but for all our neighbours and partners in our region and beyond.

The key to lifting people out of poverty, the key to improving the standards of living, is economic growth and the private sector is vital to that.

Aid by itself is no panacea to poverty. The private sector is the driver of economic growth and provides the majority of jobs and opportunities. It fuels resilience and self-efficiency.

What is essential for a resilient private sector and sustainable economic growth is a spirit of innovation.

I think that's fundamental - innovative, creative people and we know that's what drives the private sector.

In the Australian Government Aid Program not only are we working with partner Governments and NGOs, but increasingly we're working with the private sector in partnership functions because that's where the ideas come from, that's where the creativity is generated.

In June this year, I announced that the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade would be establishing a development innovation hub within the Department.

This is not what Government departments normally do - bringing together the brightest, most talented people from across the Australian public service, from the Australian private sector and internationally.

We're searching for talent, for the most creative minds, to tackle some of the seemingly impenetrable development issues that we look at year after year.

This way we're going to stimulate and develop assistance work and rejuvenate our thinking. This will drive, we hope, new ways of tackling existing problems.

Our focus as a country is global, we have global interests – unambiguously but indicatively we are targeting our interests in our region, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific.

It's a region as diverse as it is large with many nations, particularly small island states, facing unique challenges - not the least being distance, isolation and scale.

Here in the Pacific we must be able to find new and effective ways, clever ways, faster ways to support economic growth.

One example of a successful partnership, and one that demonstrates all that I'm talking about, is the Australian Government's partnership with Carnival Cruise, which I believe exemplifies the benefits of working with the private sector.

I'm delighted to see Ann Sherry, CEO of Carnival Cruise here today.

Cruise tourism in the Pacific is widely popular and becoming even more so, not surprisingly because the Pacific contains some of the most glorious tourism experiences one can imagine.

The partnership between the Australian Government and Carnival Cruises involves local people and local producers, providing jobs, training and manufacturing opportunities; working with farmers and suppliers and building the necessary infrastructure as part of the Pacific cruising experience.

Let me give you a sneak preview of a program that is coming up later - Australia and Carnival will be jointly funding a jobs-readiness program to be delivered through the Australia-Pacific Technical College and the Vanuatu Institute of Technology.

This will provide a direct pathway for Ni-Vanuatu wanting to work in the cruise industry.

Initially this pilot program will support more than 100 Ni-Vanuatu to gain essential skills for jobs on P&O ships.

If this pilot is successful - and we're confident that it will be a raging success - the numbers of trainees will be increased and the program will be opened up to other cruise lines for the benefit of other Pacific nations.

Corporate partnerships, like the great one we have with Carnival Cruises are critical.

Australia has also funded a Pacific Export Survey this year which shows that access to equity and financing in the Pacific is seen as a major impediment to private sector development.

I'm really pleased with the strong interest major banks like Westpac and ANZ have shown to explore initiatives to improve access to equity, finance and financial literacy.

Already we're working with both ANZ and Westpac to raise increased access to finance for particularly small and medium enterprises, allowing them to establish themselves and grow, supporting local business and supporting something that is very dear to my heart: the economic empowerment of women.

Indeed a significant focus of our development assistance from now on will be the empowerment of women in leadership roles, in families, communities, business, politics but also their economic empowerment.

Commercial capital for infrastructure projects and innovative responses to disaster and crisis situations in the Pacific are some of the many possibilities on the horizon from corporate and private sector partnerships.

The wealth of resources, the natural assets, the beautiful people that small island nations have to offer are renowned but we need to grasp the opportunities to drive growth, to build the economy and raise the standard of living for all the people of this region.

This is what excites me, what excites Australia - the opportunities that are found here in the Pacific and what we can achieve together.

I think partnership is a beautiful word Prime Minister! I'm looking forward to discussing ways we can enhance the opportunities that partnerships can provide for us.

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