EO&E…

Thank you, Nicholas.

Thank you very, very much for that very, very warm welcome.

Can I start by acknowledging my friend and colleague, Senator Francesco Giacobbe, good to see you in Australia and thank you for joining us today; to the Board members of the Chamber; to the Marconi Club President Vince Foti, always wonderful to come to the Marconi; and of course, Frank Oliveri, who we were saying is still looking as young as he was the many, many years ago that I've known him; and to all the members of the board of Marconi; ladies and gentlemen.

This is one of the truly iconic organisations in our community.

And can I say, Nicholas, I think it is really great to come out and have luncheons out here because I really think that this is very much the beating heart of where our community is.

Today I'm very pleased to be here but also to share some observations of the Australian Government on the growing relationship between Italy and Australia.

Of course, the relationship between Australia and Italy has come under somewhat particular scrutiny of late and of course as you know there are some issues pertinent to citizenship, so being one of the most culturally diverse people in the Parliament, of course I was the first person that everybody called!

So I duly dusted off my renunciation of citizenship complete with - I was just saying to Francesco - Denardis's signature and the Italian stamp dated 21st July 1994, so I'm clear!

On that note, I mean, when we now look at the relationship between Italy and Australia, I really think that we now are at a very, very critical time and I think a time when this relationship will be reset.

When my parents emigrated from Italy to Australia, it took a month on a ship.

Whereas this was markedly quicker of course than when the first Italians came to Australia and arrived here on the Endeavour.

And of course even today's trip to Italy - and many people in this room frequently do the trip to Italy - it's still 24 hours.

And I think, until recently, suggestions of doing business in Australia were always countered by ‘Oh you know we'd love to come to Australia, but it's “cosi lontano da tutto”', and you always got this, sort of, ‘it's always too far, it's always too far, it's always too hard.'

And notwithstanding the one million Australians of Italian descent, Italy and Australia are further apart than Australia and Germany, or Australia and France.

In 2016, French investment in Australia was 20 times that of Italy.

Australian investment in France was worth 11 times our investment in Italy.

As someone who has been an active part of the community since the 1980s, I've actually seen this and seen the involvement of this issue since that time.

But I'm very pleased, that thankfully that relationship is changing and I think that we are on the threshold of a new partnership for the future.

Now Italy and Australia occupy very different positions in the international arena, with Italy making its global contribution largely through the European Union, and Australia by working with our partners mostly in our own area of the Indo-Pacific.

However, we understand one crucial thing - our nations will prosper by being open to the world.

As Britain “Brexits” to carve its way as a "global Britain", the European Union itself is reaffirming the importance of global engagement to its own prosperity, especially through open trade and investment.

Italy, one of the EU's big four economies, is a strong voice for free trade and I think a very important ally for Australia in our work to support the World Trade Organization as the bedrock of international trade and investment rules.

Italy is an important economic partner for Australia and a growing influential voice in Brussels.

We both understand that our future prosperity depends on how well we manage the changes that are rolling around the globe, particularly as Asia in our own Asia Pacific area rises.

By 2050, Australia's Indo-Pacific region will be bordered by the world's five largest economies: the United States, China, Japan, India and Indonesia.

Australia and Italy both have a fundamental interest in influencing the way these major and emerging powers get along.

This is the main game and we have very similar ideas about the way it should be played - in accordance with international law and international norms; and managed through active, collective leadership from a wide range of nations.

So it is good that we are now having growing contact between our two nations and this is gathering momentum.

We very much appreciated the visit by Prime Minister Renzi in 2014.

I think that his visit did help to turn things around, and his visit to Brisbane in November for the G20 and then to Sydney was very, very welcome.

Of course, seeing our beautiful cosmopolitan cities first-hand often drives home those facts about Australia that's seen so clearly, particularly when you've got busy leaders or busy business people that do business with our country.

We have a tolerant, culturally diverse society with deep roots.

Even though we are one of the most culturally diverse, we are one of the most socially cohesive nations on earth.

We have deep roots in democracy, in freedom and the rule of law.

These are the fundamental things which bind us together as a nation.

Our cities are amongst the most liveable in the world and this really does make us in many ways, as Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has said, a lifestyle superpower.

Let's not forget 26 years of unbroken annual economic growth, and we are the world's thirteenth largest economy.

Prime Minister Renzi came to Australia; Foreign Minister Bishop, and Trade, Investment and Tourism Minister Mr Ciobo - as you can see the Italian descent is quite prominent in our Foreign Affairs department - we are four Ministers in the foreign affairs and the trade, investment and tourism parts, so two out of four isn't bad, Nicholas!

And then, of course, Mr Ciobo visited in in 2016.

In February this year, the Italian Defence Minister Pinotti visited, and also visiting Australia at the same time, not coincidentally I might add, was the Italian Carabiniere Frigate.

Italy's Parliamentary Secretary for Trade and Investment Scalfarotto, visited with a trade delegation in March 2017.

Of course, Foreign Minister Alfano will be visiting Sydney and Canberra, with a brief stop in Adelaide, in the first week of September.

The visit by the Foreign Minister will focus on the growing ties between Australia and Italy, particularly in the areas of trade, investment and innovation collaboration.

As a continuation of discussions between Australia and Italy last November, and of course we have constant official-to-official talks, so officials from my Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade propose a continue to hold senior officials talks and they will do so again this year, where of course that covers a whole range of bilateral economic, trade and cultural engagement activities.

So things are very active at the senior levels and we're seeing the growing momentum at the Ministerial level.

Prime Minister Turnbull recently, in Singapore, said “we have to take responsibility for our own security and prosperity while recognising we are stronger when sharing the burden of collective leadership with trusted partners and friends”.

Australia puts great weight on its defence preparedness with the largest investment in naval assets in our history.

Our total defence spending will reach two per cent of GDP by 2020.

Australia recognises that Italy is a significant and seasoned military power - one of the few countries in the world with the capacity to project force globally.

Therefore, our defence links are growing.

Australia is acquiring ten C-27J aircraft manufactured by Italian company Leonardo.

Italian company Fincantieri is one of three shortlisted in the competitive evaluation process for Australia's Future Frigate Project, which is worth more than $35 billion.

There are also signs that business relations between Australia and Italy are growing towards their potential.

Italy is an important partner for Australia in negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement with the European Union.

Can I particularly thank you, Francesco, for the work that you have done in assisting behind the scenes. I know that you have been active on this and on behalf of the Australian Government, we are very, very grateful.

The Australian Government looks to this Chamber and other business organisations.

You are a very old, established Chamber and we will be looking to you on how we can create a better environment for increase of this two-way trade and investment.

For decades, Italian enterprise has taken excellent Australian wool and wheat and produced fashion and cuisine that are famous the world over.

These business relations continue to develop and are being reinforced by a new and more diverse generation of economic ties.

A prime example being Italian luxury fashion label Zegna, which has a majority stake in Armidale-based superfine wool producer Achill.

Achill will now deliver all of its wool to Zegna.

Of course, this is an area that is of particular interest to me, having spent about a year doing a major report. I've been always a firm believer of this sort of activity and it's really good to see Zegna now moving towards this and ensuring a much more integrated supply chain for them.

Australia's open, mature economy offers Italian companies steady foundations unmatched and, of course, unmatched access to the Asian growth markets.

Over the next ten years, more than one billion more people will join the middle class in Asia, creating a consumer market larger in number and spending more than the rest of the world combined.

Australia has a suite of high-quality free trade agreements with Asian countries, including China, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, and the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN).

This trade and investment advantage is attracting foreign investors who want stable bases for higher growth operations.

French company Sanofi Consumer Health Care, for example, is expanding its production facilities in Brisbane to keep up with the pace of demand in China.

Spain's Grupo Aliberico is producing aluminium composites in Victoria, which it plans to export to South East Asia.

Italian companies are now capitalising on these opportunities.

Italian food manufacturer, Ferrero, very dear to us, is investing in Australia's first large-scale hazelnut plantations as part of its global supply strategy.

Australia currently imports hazelnuts, but Ferrero plans to partner with Australian farmers to make Australia a regional supply hub.

So next time we bite into our little Ferreros, which we do - some of us quite often, the little hazelnut will have come from Australia!

Of course, Italian infrastructure giant Salini Impregilo is working on the North West Rail Link in Sydney, the biggest transport project in Australia and of course on Perth's airport link.

Ghella, with its Australian partners, will be building the $2.8 billion Sydney Metro tunnel and is involved in the Legacy Tunnel project in Brisbane.

ENEL, ENI and others are exploring new investments in renewable energy in Australia.

Indeed, ENEL has indicated its intention to increase its installed photovoltaic capacity in Australia to around two gigawatts – and that's five per cent of its capacity worldwide.

Australian business also sees opportunity in Italy.

Whilst we appreciate the economic challenges that may be there, we are also open to the opportunities that do exist.

As the Italian Government increases its infrastructure spending and enacts economic and labour market reforms, Australian companies are investing in this Italian growth.

Westfield is in a joint venture to build a major shopping centre in Milan.

If the plans of Australian companies such as Ansett Aviation, IFM, LendLease, Macquarie and RF Capital come to fruition, Australia's direct investment in Italy could increase from $150 million to $5 billion in the coming years.

Of course, the Australian Government supports the reform direction of the Italian Government.

It may be that we share lessons we learnt through our experience of trade liberalisation, labour market reform and tax reform since the 1980s.

While not directly transferable, Australia' experience in designing and implementing economic reform, and the public communication of the benefits of reform, may be valuable.

But let me touch on some areas that potentially may not be so commonly known.

Our nations' partnership, for example, in innovation and science is another area of strength and of growth.

In May, Australia and Italy signed a Memorandum of Understanding to further strengthen scientific, technological and innovation co-operation between the two countries.

The Turnbull Government is reinvigorating Australia's research and entrepreneurship efforts through a $1 billion National Innovation and Science Agenda.

Australia's CSIRO, Commonwealth Science and Industrial Research Organisation, is one of the many institutions receiving extra funding.

CSIRO has extensive links to Italy and a very impressive track record.

Independent research recently established that CSIRO provides an estimated return to the Australian economy of $5 for every $1 of funding.

Australia and Italy have well established links in astronomy and astrophysics; in fact, Australia and Italy are founding members of the Square Kilometer Array global science project.

Of course, I spoke earlier about Australia and Italy being outward looking countries.

Well, we're looking at things - or rather listening to things - together, a very, very long way away in the universe.

We have the ability and ambition to listen to the birth of stars 13 billion years ago, through the Square Kilometre Array radio telescope.

Australia is co-hosting the array with South Africa; our “radio quiet zone” is in Australia's North West, on Aboriginal ancestral lands with whom the CSIRO is partnering in this project.

Australia and Italy will be working together on this project for the next fifty years.

It will build on our collaboration in the European Southern Observatory, which is headquartered in Germany, with observatories in northern Chile, with which we also recently announced strategic partnerships.

Of course, as part of this innovation and science agenda, our Government is throwing open its doors to the best ideas from around the world.

Our cyber research agency, Data61, has used high-resolution 3D imagery from the Shanghai Institute of Applied Science to develop much needed software for early-stage cancer.

In my own portfolio of International Development and the Pacific, I look after international aid, our overseas development assistance and, of course, primarily and with particular responsibility in the Pacific. Every so often, we throw open what we call “Ideas Challenges” and we did one recently in relation to humanitarian work and how we can improve our humanitarian response around the world.

We had 129 applications from twenty countries, including two from Italian nationals, one of which was the winner!

Our new Pacific Drone Imagery Dashboard has its origins in Italian ingenuity and of course that's very important when you have natural disasters, particularly in the Pacific where you've got large distances, lots of ocean and disaster happen.

You send these very specialised drones in and they do your mapping for you and they give you real-time data which enables you to then respond accordingly.
So we're piloting all sorts of new ideas as to how we use drones.

Of course, we are also building momentum in science and innovation, and we see great potential with Italian institutions such as Bocconi University and the Politecnico universities in Milan and Turin, and of course with companies such as ENEL.

For all these reasons, the Australian Government is looking to ways that we can bolster the relations between our two countries.

Of course, as I have always advocated, the surest path to deeper connections over the long term is by building the links between our people.

Whilst the trade figures between the two countries perhaps are not as great as others, what has really cemented the strong presence that our community - our Ital-Australian community - has at the centre of not just the Federal Government, but at State Governments, are our people-to-people links. That has really been the strength.

Yes, the trade numbers are important, but it's been our community that has maintained that vitally important bridge between Australia and Italy that today affords us this very important platform that we can deepen those relationships.

And, of course, having the opportunity to have Francesco and Marco in the Parliament, a foot in both camps, I think is not only a reminder to us of our strong democratic ties, but it is also a reminder of the democratic traditions that both our countries share.

Italian enrolments in Australia, across all education sectors, are higher than from any other European country.

Tourism flows are strong and, of course, there is always the potential for more growth.

And, of course, a growing number of young Italians are travelling on working holiday visas.

But we are looking for new ways that we can make this experience a better one, whether it's for business or for pleasure, to make it easier through aviation links, more compatible passport systems or better recognition of drivers' licences - something that's particularly dear to my heart.

Of course, many Australians know and love Italy, and of course the same is true of Italian attitudes to Australia.

Now we are embarking on building a 21st century partnership, and it is being built on very, very strong foundations.

As a member of the Turnbull Government, we are of course committed to ensuring the prosperity of Australia.

On a domestic front, our prime aim is to ensure that we create the business fundamentals, we create the atmospherics for jobs and for businesses to grow the jobs in their business and reduce taxes to keep Australia competitive.

Can I just conclude on this note: the Chamber is the oldest and the largest in Australia.

You have been ranked first - and I remember well when that happened - amongst the 76 Italian Chambers around the world.

My association with this Chamber goes back thirty years - that's a long time!

I still remember my first, I think it was 1986 I went to my first Chamber function. And I ask you - to you, Nicholas, and to your board, I think that the time has come where we've recently called upon you because we believe that the Chambers and the network of the Chambers in Australia are going to have to be a very vital part of that future relationship.

Can I thank you very, very much for your kind attention and I am happy to take some questions if anyone has got any questions.

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