Can I start by acknowledging Minister Julie Bishop and my many, many parliamentary colleagues here this evening; members of the Diplomatic Corp; my dear friends Joseph and Angela Assaf; ladies and gentlemen.
It is great to join you once again for the Ethnic Business Awards. I just asked Joseph how many years has it been that we have been together at these awards, and he said "Connie, you've been coming here for almost twenty years." So it makes me feel rather old.
So much diversity over so many years that has been brought to Australia help make us the country that we are today, and I am very, very pleased to celebrate it once again.
This evening, I am also here representing the Minister for Trade, Investment and Tourism, Steven Ciobo, who sends his apologies that he could not be here himself.
This Government celebrates the fact that migrants from all around the world help our economy – and it is a very, very good economy, and an economy that is for the benefit of all Australians.
We have at the moment the highest number of Australians born overseas in over 120 years.
28 per cent of our population1, 47 per cent of us alone born overseas or have at least one parent born overseas.
We speak about 300 different languages, including Indigenous languages, and 20 per cent of Australians do not speak English at home.
And so, therefore, that is the diversity of Australia today, and a very, very important part of that has been our ethnic businesses and our Indigenous businesses.
With our increasing diversity, it is important that we maximise benefits to Australia to enable us to recruit and train talented people and enable businesses small, medium and large to attract a large and broad range of clients and customers, and this will all contribute to what I call productive diversity.
And through an increasingly globalised economy, it offers Australian businesses unprecedented connections to overseas markets and opportunities.
Often our dual citizens, and so many of our ethnic businesses are dual citizens, and they connect the particular heritage to Australia.
They are the basis of those business and trading ties that make us so much better connected to the world.
They are also best placed to understand the customs and the languages of those countries, and so it makes trading with those countries a lot easier.
They are an important bridge between Australia and those countries.
But as we heard earlier, many migrants with qualifications who do come to Australia and their qualifications are not recognised, as we heard earlier, and they prefer to open their own family business, and family is at the heart of so much of what we heard this evening.
And so they use their skills, their professionalism and they not only service the Australian economy, but often are the first point of contact for their own communities and businesses in their own communities.
30 per cent of our small businesses in Australia are started by migrants.
And this is what we are celebrating this evening.
So congratulations to all the nominees and all the finalists.
As Minister Bishop said earlier, our Indigenous businesses are the leaders in their field, but they also are the leaders of tomorrow.
You can watch the Minister’s speech, and the full Awards ceremony, at 3:30pm on Sunday 20 November, on SBS 1.
1. ABS media release 30 March 2016 "Overseas born Aussies highest in over a century"
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