Thank you very much Melina for your kind remarks and thank you also to Els Kamphoff for your comments.

Yes I do know Rabobank, being a Sydney sider you can’t a miss the Rabobank sign very close to the centre of the city.

To you Martin Lowery, thank you very much for your comments.

I also like to acknowledge in opening, our private sector development Director Simon Cramp from DFAT who is here and who will no doubt assist me in answering some of the questions this morning.

Look, I am very pleased to be here today for the inaugural Breakfast on the Hill to discuss how public-private partnerships build strong communities in our neighbourhood and beyond.

Can I commend you for this initiative and I certainly hope that this breakfast starts a very concrete conversation with the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Australian Government.

The Australian Government is committed to a neighbourhood that is peaceful, stable and open to trade and investment.

And to achieve this, we do recognise that we need strong partnerships and strong partnerships with the private sector, of which co-operative and mutuals are a very important component. 

While we have been working alongside and together across the Indo-Pacific for some time, I think that it is time that our relationship and our partnership was closer.

The Australian Government has much to offer, through a stronger partnership, including:

  • the ability to convene, broker and influence an extensive network to assist you to increase commercial returns and social impact;
  • we have a deep knowledge of business, political and the regulatory environments in many of our developing countries;
  • We can support to create more attractive business environments in the neighbourhood; and
  • We have the potential to influence global platforms such as the United Nations system, G20 and APEC, of which Australia is a strong participant and contributor.

As savvy business people, I am sure you are wondering what we, what you would like from a stronger partnership.

You have knowledge, you have ideas, you have finance, you have capabilities and you have resources that are essential to achieving our common goal.

The three sectors that account for more than 80% of your members’ business activities  are insurance, agricultural production and banking and finance.

These are extremely important sectors for Australia’s overseas development assistance.

Els, as you correctly pointed out, food and agriculture is vitally important.

It is at the heart of so much of the work that I do, we all do, in overseas development assistance.

And Martin, as you said, if you do not have power you cannot do very much.

As I have visited the Pacific, and I’m happy to share some of this with you later, the importance of power is not just because it gives you the ability to switch on the lights, the empowerment that that gives whole societies is just incredible.

Some of the things that are happening, particularly in our neighbourhood in that sector, particularly in the solar sector, small and large, projects is really good to see, and very much in keeping with what you’ve said to us this morning.

The business models that you offer include benefits that are highly relevant to our overseas development assistance program, such as:

  • providing services that would otherwise not exist,
  • accelerating the pace of economic growth in developing countries, and
  • maximising the development impact of individual businesses.

Stability and security depend on inclusive economic growth, which is your specialty.

The Australian Government recognises that business is the engine of growth.

In developing countries, the private sector provides 90% of the jobs.

It also designs and produces the goods and services used by the poor.

That is why we spent more than $1.2 billion, and that is about 30% of our overseas development expenditure last financial year, to support the growth of the private sector. 

I am sure all of us agree that the importance of investing in the development of the private sector will lift people out of poverty and certainly as I said, this is a very important commitment of our $4 billion overseas development assistance program.

It is good policy for the Australian Government to deploy our wealth, our skill and our goodwill to assist developing countries.

To achieve the inclusive, sustainable economic growth that produces peace, good health and prosperity.

We focus our assistance on our region, where we have the most at stake.

I see great potential for Australia’s development assistance to work more closely with co-operatives and mutuals in the Indo-Pacific area.

The principle that Friedrich Raiffeissen expressed and put into practice, and which has been part of your Rabobank’s history is worth recalling.

He said ‘in order to fight poverty one should fight dependency first’.

We see that work and that idea, of course in principle, in your Farm2Fork Summit.

We see it in Rabobank’s drive to promote co-operative principles around the world, already having reached more than 4.7 million smallholder farmers, including in the Indo-Pacific region.

We see it in the work of NRECA’s foundation, which has brought electricity to 68 million individuals.

As I said, with power comes empowerment and comes opportunity.

Co-operatives and mutuals are great models for building self-reliance, and they are models that government can support in ways that reinforce positive incentives for self-help.

This kind of collective enterprise, based on independent smallholders coming together for their mutual benefit, is certainly part of my Italian heritage.

It is also part of my heritage as I grew up in Illawarra, how could I forget the IMB that is such a part of Illawarra, and it is certainly one of the founding principles of the party that I belong to, the Liberal party.

I know that the BCCM understands well the potential of collective action and development, as evidenced by the submissions you have made to our Joint Standing Committees.

Indeed it was you that noted in one of your submissions the power of the Fairtrade movement, in which 75% of Fairtrade goods are produced by co-operatives of smallholder farms.

The Australian overseas development program also sees the potential of Fairtrade models to boost sustainable business in both Australian domestic and Indo-Pacific markets. 

The partnership between Australian Aid and Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand, has enabled Fairtrade to expand its business partnerships and raise consumer awareness.

Australian per capita spend on Fairtrade goods increased by almost 50% from 2013 to 2014, increasing the size of the market for regional producers.

We are continuing to prioritise partnerships that create business opportunities as well as pathways out of poverty. And many of these pathways have co-operative business models at their core.

For example, many of you will be aware of Promoting Rural Incomes through Support to Markets in Agriculture, called PRISMA, which helps remove growth constraints in 13 agricultural commodities important to small farmers in Indonesia.

PRISMA helps local farmer co-operatives connect with others in the value chain.

Through these co-operatives, farmers can share information on new production methods, processing techniques and marketing to enable them to access higher-value markets.

In Cambodia, our aid supports World Vision, and I acknowledge Tim Costello, to establish agricultural cooperatives that provided small loans to farmers.

This support provides very tangible assistance to farmers looking to transition from higher risk sole producer operations to business models that share the risk and bring new opportunities within reach.

In addition to targeted country- by-country interventions, Australian development assistance is also looking at how we can support cooperative models of business at the global level.

To this end, Australia supports the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program.

An example of its work includes a new initiative to fund producer organisations, smallholder farm groups, and small and medium enterprises which struggle to access other forms of finance. 

In short, co-operatives and mutuals have been and will continue to be an important part of Australia’s overseas development assistance efforts to reduce aid dependency and build sustainable prosperity.

Before concluding, I would like to touch on Australia’s commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and how you play an important role.

This is our whole-of-society vision that recognises development is only achieved through the private sector and civil society, in partnership with governments.

The Australian Government supports the United Nations Global Compact Network Australia as a key platform whereby the private sector can demonstrate responsible business practices and its contribution to the 2030 Agenda.

A prime example of this is the CEO Statement of Support for the SDGs.

The Statement acknowledges the critical contribution business already makes towards achieving the 2030 Agenda, through responsible business operations, new business models, investment, innovation, technology and collaboration.

It also acknowledges that business can do more.

I encourage you all to consider what your business can contribute to achieving the 2030 Agenda.

The Australian Government stands ready to partner with you.

In closing, can I congratulate the organisers of this event for bringing us together.

I hope, as I said earlier, that this breakfast will mark the beginning of a stronger partnership with Australian cooperatives and mutuals to achieve a safe and more prosperous region.

Thank you very much.

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