Thank you very, very much Greg.
Can I start by acknowledging you and all your team at Westpac, to our High Commissioner Bruce Davis, to David Toua, the many distinguished guests who are here this evening, ladies and gentlemen.
It is my very great pleasure to be here this evening at the opening of the 33rd Australia PNG Business Forum and Trade Expo.
Given that I will be speaking more extensively tomorrow morning, I will just keep my remarks tonight very brief.
I want to focus on one important area for businesses working in Papua New Guinea and around the world and that is, community engagement and shared value and Westpac’s Choice Wantok program in particular.
Many of the companies represented here tonight are developing strong relationships and partnerships with communities in PNG.
These partnerships support corporate priorities, such as a healthy, educated and productive workforce, secure business operating environments and a growing economy.
In generating these corporate goods, shared-value partnerships also meet local community needs and advance the community’s priorities.
The Australian Government through our High Commission in Port Moresby is working with both businesses and communities to extend these development impacts.
DFAT’s collaboration with Carnival Cruises is leveraging greater development outcomes from the cruise industry.
Incoming cruise business contributed $5.7 million to PNG’s economy in 2015, with almost half of the benefits retained in local communities.
This sector continues to grow year on year.
ExxonMobil supports the Australia-PNG partnership to provide scholarships and support community safety in remote areas.
We collaborate with OilSearch to deliver scholarships, health care training and responses to HIV.
We are working with Origin Energy as they distribute solar lighting products across rural PNG, reaching 1.2 million people, and creating new business opportunities.
But tonight, I particularly want to focus on launching an important new initiative, which is part of our ongoing partnership with Westpac, as Greg has outlined.
The Australian Government has been working with Westpac over a number of years to extend the reach of banking services and to boost financial literacy in PNG.
Through the Pacific Financial Inclusion Program, the Australian Government is now supporting Westpac to establish a first-of-its kind Innovation Hub at its branch in Mount Hagen.
The Highlands region is a hive of economic activity and PNG’s food bowl.
However, in Mount Hagen and surrounding areas, more than 80% of people have never had access to even the most basic bank accounts.
Westpac will offer a low cost banking product called Choice Wantok, to bring banking to rural people, without fees, through branchless banking.
It will allow people to largely bank from their village store or mobile phone.
When people have access to savings, and ultimately buying products, they can better plan for their future, build resilience against things like crop failure and ultimately use loans to make bigger purchases like farm equipment or property.
Central to Choice Wantok is the Innovation Hub, which is a space for people to develop and test ideas and products.
Innovation hubs, with their emphasis on ideas rather than quick outcomes, are a great way for organisations to ask new questions, get new answers, and deliver truly different products and services.
Westpac’s Innovation Hub will be the first in Papua New Guinea.
It is an exciting time for financial inclusion in Papua New Guinea.
To drive the use of savings accounts – and therefore make a difference for many, many families across PNG – Westpac and partners, including the Australian Government, will put people at the centre of new products and services on Westpac’s digital platforms.
Choice Wantok will also reduce security issues for people carrying cash, provide a safe and economical way to store money, and reduce the use of unrepaid financial services by loan sharks.
This will be a true innovation model – some ideas will fail, and those failures will provide valuable lessons to develop the best possible products and services for the Highlands population.
The financial solutions created by the Innovation Hub will focus on benefiting those in PNG, including women and farmers, who currently have least access to the financial sector.
It is a long term approach.
We want people to be banking regularly and driving growth of the formal economy far into the future, in the Highlands and throughout PNG.
This growth is a priority for all of us.
This Forum provides a valuable opportunity to uncover new partnerships to extend growth, trade and networks in PNG.
I look forward to meeting many of you tomorrow, and I look forward to hearing more about the investment, trade and development opportunities you are pursuing in PNG.
Thank you for your kind attention.
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