Australian Latin America Business Council

  • Speech, check against delivery

I acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land on which we meet, the Ngunnawal and Ngambri people, and pay my respect to Elders, past and present.

I acknowledge any Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people here with us today.

And I reaffirm the Australian Government's commitment to implementing the Uluru Statement from the Heart in full – Voice, Treaty, and Truth.

Thank you, Richard, for your very generous words.

You, Marcelo and the board have been wonderful stewards of ALABC through the pandemic, and of course, champions for productive business relationships between Australia and Latin America for many years now.

Thank you for the work that you do.

I’d like to recognise all the Latin American Ambassadors here today.

And I’d also like to welcome the business representatives in the audience.

I’m pleased to be here today to speak at ALABC’s annual networking day.

And I’m glad to see all of you here, especially after the disruptions of the pandemic.

Events like this are so important.

They are an opportunity to make connections.

And on my part, they’re an opportunity to speak directly to you, the business community, about the Australian Government’s priorities.

I know you’ve got a full day of discussions about the specifics of doing business in Latin America ahead of you, so I thought I’d take this opportunity to give you a big picture snapshot of the new government’s approach to working with and in Latin America.

As you know, Australia’s relationship with Latin American countries is diverse – spanning sectors from mining to education, from renewable energy to environment and marine protection.

Our focus from an economic standpoint is promoting our high-quality exports, our attractiveness as an investment destination, and our reliability as a partner with shared values.

But at its heart, the Australian government’s approach to Latin America is fundamentally about people.

It’s about people like you, who build those relationships across countries.

It’s about the people who travel between continents to study and work.

This constitutes a new wave of people, with the right cultural and linguistic experience and understanding to bridge the geographic distance between our continents.

There’s a lot of goodwill in Latin America towards Australia.

That’s something you have no doubt seen in your work.

It’s something I saw firsthand when I visited Chile and Peru last month.

There are so many young Latin American people who have been to Australia on working holidays or as students.

There are currently more than 34,800 students from across Latin America studying in Australia.

And last financial year, we granted nearly 5,000 Work and Holiday visas to Latin American nationals from six countries.

These programs are always oversubscribed – showing just how keen young Latin Americans are to come to Australia.

We will continue to work to broaden the opportunities available for young Latin American people to come here to study and work, and vice versa.

All these young people take home valuable education and skills.

I benefited from that firsthand in Santiago and Lima, where I was lucky enough to drink some excellent flat whites in thriving cafes run by locals who had either studied or worked in Australia.

Of course, more important than the ability to make a good coffee is the positive sentiment about Australia the young people who study or work here take home with them.

These kinds of personal connections are so invaluable as we work to grow our trade and investment links with countries across Latin America. 

They go beyond the transactional and deepen the fabric of our business relationships.

People are at the heart of what we do.

You only need to look at the turnout from Latin America at the International Mining and Resources Conference in Sydney earlier this month.

Or the number of Australian delegates at Perumin in September, where we held country partner status for the first time.

Or the cutting-edge work of CSIRO Chile, where some of Australia’s leading scientists are unlocking the value of satellite data for earth and marine observation to help solve environmental and other international challenges.

The work we’re doing with Chilean counterparts in this is a great example of how our connections enable climate change action.

The Australian Government believes that climate change is the single greatest challenge to our region, and to our world.

And of course, the issue of climate change is important to countries across Latin America.

Most recently, incoming Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva – Lula, as he is widely known – has pledged to fight for zero deforestation of the Amazon.

Chilean President Gabriel Boric has championed a ‘turquoise’ foreign policy agenda – combining the blue of the ocean and the green of the environment into one, recognising they are connected.

Everyone here today would be well aware that the Albanese Government didn’t waste a moment in legislating our carbon emissions reduction targets – a minimum of 43 per cent by 2030, and net zero by 2050.

We want to be a renewable energy superpower.

The way we handle the energy transition is deeply important if we are to meet these climate targets.

The need to manage this transition in a sustainable way…

A way that is supported by long term, not short term, thinking…

With environmental, community and social factors at its foundation…

And with trusted partners…

Is key.

All of this needs to be done in a way which respects the indigenous peoples of the lands we work and live on – here in Australia, and in countries around Latin America.

Happily, Australian mining companies are already doing this sort of work in Latin America.

They’re good at it.

And we’ll continue to support this work, including by working with our Latin American partners and friends.

Because there is plenty that we can learn from each other.

We’ll need to keep working together, including to work out the place hydrogen will have in the energy transition.

Australia is seeking to become a top global supplier of hydrogen by 2030.

We will work with Latin American countries to significantly up our research and development resources, to kickstart hydrogen production globally.

Another area where we can cooperate is in building those connections and partnerships that will support the sustainable mining of critical minerals like lithium, cobalt and silicon – all, of course, essential minerals to the technologies we need for a sustainable future.

Australian companies like Fortescue, Rio Tinto and Lake Resources are investing in Argentina.

And Australian METS companies are bringing their expertise in exploration, software, safety and community engagement to Argentina.

And we are already beginning to see a two-way investment relationship between Australia and Chile.

Chile’s SQM has entered into a number of joint ventures for lithium exploration projects in Australia.

In the other direction, Australia’s Lithium Power International is constructing Chile’s third lithium mine in Maricunga.

And BHP has announced that its operations in Chile are moving to 100 per cent renewable energy.

Governments can set parameters.

We can build the circumstances and an environment for jobs and opportunities to flourish.

But businesses are the ones who need to take those opportunities and those risks, and who make things happen.

So, thank you for being here today, and for making these things happen.

And thank you again to ALABC, which works so tirelessly to connect the Australian business community with the Latin American community, and helps to build those relationships.

I hope today is a thought-provoking and productive day for you all.

And I hope that you will continue to build on the relationships that connect Australia and Latin America.

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