Thank you for those remarks, Andrew [Meagher, Director, International CEO Forum] and to you all for your warm welcome.
In speaking to you today, I’m very conscious of the legacy of the International Investor Dialogue, and of the importance your discussions have to the millions of employees and consumers that you collectively represent.
At the same time, I recognise the topic of international development is perhaps not one that comes up often in business forums such as this.
The fact of the matter is that the Australian Government’s development agenda does have direct relevance to the business community.
As a government, we want to build partnerships through which your business activities can help us to deliver our development objectives.
Our international development agenda in an integral part of our long-term strategic vision for Australia’s economic prosperity, for private sector growth, and for our international trade and investment goals.
Through this development agenda, the Government is committed to building resilience in our immediate neighbourhood – to underpin peace and stability in our region and to ensure an open trade and investment environment for business.
It is a big vision – I grant you that – but little by little, it’s a vision that is bearing fruit.
Under a renewed Economic and Commercial Diplomacy agenda, we are stepping up business engagement, harnessing global commercial insights, and creating more opportunity for Australian companies abroad.
We in government have a lot to offer to a stronger partnership with the business community.
We can draw on our extensive international networks to help you to increase commercial returns, and at the same time deliver social impact – outcomes that support the sustainability of your business activities.
We can share our deep knowledge of business, political and regulatory environments in many countries that are otherwise very difficult to navigate.
We can influence global platforms in support of specific business outcomes – platforms such as the United Nations, the G20 and APEC.
It’s a two-way street, of course – no contract without consideration!
There is a lot that you, in the business world, bring almost intuitively.
It is you who have the knowledge and you who have the innovative ideas.
You have the capabilities, the commercial expertise and the resources that we need in order to achieve a common goal.
We need to draw on your capabilities, your expertise and your resources to support the development of private sector activity in our region.
This is critical because private sector employment typically accounts for 90 per cent of jobs in developing countries.
And a healthy private sector accelerates the pace of economic growth, it provides essential goods and services without which communities cannot exist, and it stimulates innovation and entrepreneurship that is vital to lifting countries from developing to developed status.
That is why in the 2016-17 financial year, we spent $1.4 billion of Australia’s development budget to support private sector development.
We know that business is the engine of inclusive economic growth, and we know that growth in turn is fundamental to ensuring stability and security in our region.
Partnerships with business and multilaterals
Private sector partnerships are therefore the key to deepening the impact and inclusiveness of Australia’s development contribution.
At the same time, these partnerships help to make your business models and value chains more sustainable.
The opportunities created by these partnerships are garnering attention at the highest business levels, particularly when it comes to individual companies keen to identify and nurture local talent.
To give you some specific examples, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has partnered with Google to support the “Google Impact Challenge” [in 2016] – with a grant to fund organisations exploring new ways of using technology to fight poverty around the world.
Atlassian partnered with DFAT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and others last year to launch the “Youth, Skills and Workforce of the Future Challenge” and to support the winners of that challenge bring their innovations out to scale.
India’s Tata Group has partnered with DFAT to launch the “Water Abundance XPRIZE” – where competitors try to draw clean water from thin air; finding a solution to service high-humidity areas where water is currently inaccessible.
Other businesses are more closely engaged in using their existing expertise to support specific social impact goals.
Through our Business Partnerships Platform, we are enabling business to deliver development outcomes while also extending Australia’s reach along global value chains.
Melbourne-based travel company, the Intrepid Group, has formed a collaborative partnership in Myanmar with Australian Volunteers International and the Australian Government.
Through this partnership, we are working together to help local suppliers meet growing consumer demand for tourism services as Myanmar opens to the world.
The initiative has trained 28 candidates in sustainable tourism management and supported ten businesses to develop their tourism products to take to market.
We focus on people who would otherwise face barriers to participation in the tourism market in Myanmar, such as women, ethnic minorities and people with disabilities.
In Pakistan, Cotton Australia is helping to train over 250,000 farmers in integrated pest management and other best practices, in partnership with the Better Cotton Initiative and the Australian Government.
These are examples that inspire us within the Government to explore partnerships with business that challenge our thinking and that reach beyond conventional development programming.
For example, we are leveraging our aid budget by funding partners such as the Private Infrastructure Development Group – the “PIDG” – to address the global infrastructure gap.
The PIDG in turn complements our support with contributions from other governments, and from financial services such as equity, debt and guarantees to turn promising infrastructure projects in frontier markets into bankable investments.
We extend our funding to other major implementing partners such as the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, which promote private sector growth and economic reform in the region.
There is undoubtedly a growing global recognition of the Australian private sector and its role in achieving innovative outcomes in development.
For example, the Commonwealth Bank has very recently been chosen by the World Bank to issue the first ever blockchain bond – the “Kangaroo bond” – designed principally for Australian-based investors.
This Kangaroo bond is expected to raise around $50 million as part of the World Bank’s global funding program, financing development outcomes around the world.
These are just a few illustrations of the possibilities that are quite literally endless when we start to break down the conventional ‘silo’ view of the role of the public and private sectors when it comes to international development.
Those silos might have made sense once upon a time, but they have no place in our world today.
We have common goals – a larger, economically-empowered global consumer base, where people are free to make their own financial choices and to engage in open trading markets.
The Australian Government’s development agenda aims to achieve just that; to reach out and support growth in other countries as well as our own.
And this is not just about doing what’s right.
It is about doing what’s in our national interest, and what is in the interests of our business community – that is you! – who are the true engines of jobs and growth in this country.
It is a common goal – and it is a very big common goal – but we will get there if we give it a go together.
To help you to get involved, DFAT has established a Private Sector Development Unit to provide a direct entry point for businesses.
I strongly encourage you to be an active partner for this very worthwhile project, and to register your interest by contacting DFAT.
Thank you for your kind attention.
- Assistant Minister's office: (02) 6277 4607
- DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555