Bengaluru Tech Summit

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Australia/India programs, Australia’s perception overseas, CSIRO and university rankings, Australia and India’s relationships and investments, Centre of Excellence, Cyber and Critical Technology Partnership, Australia’s multicultural population,

Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs:

[indistinct], good afternoon. It's terrific to be here and to be able to gather here at the Bengaluru Tech Summit in-person after a hiatus and I'm proud to be here leading one of the largest [indistinct] delegations at BTS with around 50 Australian businesses, policy speakers and government representatives in attendance. And since I arrived in Bengaluru, I've been able to see how policy-makers and our businesses in action. I've spoken to them about an exciting new program and initiatives, all of which play an important role in demonstrating Australia's impressive credentials in the dynamics of an Australia-India [indistinct].

I've heard about the Western Australian Government's Perth landing zone which will support Indian scale-ups wanting to enter the West Australian market. CyberWest 2023, West Australia's flagship cyber security event designed to connect industry, government and [indistinct] innovators, and I can attest to that one because I participated in it personally myself.

A new report on block chain sequence delivered by the Australian National University's Tech Policy Design Centre and the National Law University of Delhi's Centre for Communication [indistinct], a project made possible by the Australian Cyber and Critical Technology Partnership Grants Program. I've also witnessed a number of new commercial MOUs and initiatives.

BTS does a wonderful job of getting us together on the road and I want to congratulate the Government of Karnataka and the conference organisers on BTS's [indistinct].

In the first six months of my role as Australia's Assistant Minister, I've had the great privilege of representing Australia overseas. I've met with ministerial counterparts, hard-working officials and welcoming locals. I'm always struck by discussions that I have on my travels and I'm interested in the way that other countries view Australia. Often we're known for our beautiful beaches, our top-notch coffee, or our prowess on the sporting fields.

In India, there's more recognition of the excellence of our universities, training institutions, and how popular Australia has become as a destination for study. There's no doubt that all of these perceptions have merit and strong proof to them. And as a Melburnian, I can safely say that you will find the best cup of coffee anywhere in the world in Melbourne and I know that many Indians have been enjoying plenty of them in Australia through recent T/20 World Cup matches.

But there's a lot more to Australia than that. We're a nation of indexers, of entrepreneurs, of creators. We rank equal first in the world for our readiness to embrace technological change. More than half our businesses are innovation-active. Our industries are adopting world-leading applications of 5G technologies, for instance, in remote monitoring of mine sites. And these factors explain why so many of India's leading tech companies have such substantial investments in Australia.

As a country, we are a relatively small population. We know the importance of innovation, driving productivity and prosperity. The Australian Government scientific research arm, CSIRO, which was responsible for inventing Wi-Fi, ranks in the top 1% of the world's scientific institutions across 15 of 22 research fields and, of course, our universities punch well above their weight. We place fourth for the number of universities in the top 100 rankings, many of them leaders in the STEM fields that are so central to the topics that we are discussing here at  BTS.

And while there's so much for us to celebrate  in our own right, an important part of the picture is how we plug into trusty partners – trusty partners like India. Australia and India both made significant commitments in 2020 when we elevated our relationship to a comprehensive, strategic partnership, and Australia is making unprecedented investments in new programs with India, including many that build our science, technology, and innovation partners. Some of these initiatives include extending the Australia-India Strategic Research Fund, which supports joint venture research between our countries. This is already Australia's largest financial research fund in any country in the world.

A new innovation partnership between Australia's CSIRO and India's Atal Innovation Mission. Investing in new, clean technology and critical minerals [indistinct], and supporting the Australian Space Agency's International Space Investment initiative to collaborate with ISRO, based right here in Bengaluru. 

I've seen first-hand why Bengaluru has earnt its reputation for – as a glowing - growing global centre of innovation [indistinct]. It's why the Australian Government is opening a new Consulate General in Bengaluru in 2023 to support connections and broker opportunities with this dynamic part of South India.

And it's why we're working with the Indian Government to open a new joint Australia-India Centre of Excellence on critical and emerging technology policy, also here in Bengaluru. The Centre would draw from Indian and Australian expertise from across industry, government, academia, and civil society to shape governance on policy frameworks and [indistinct]. 

I'm also pleased to announce here today that under the Australia-India Cyber and Critical Technology Partnership, the Australian Government will also be supporting cyber and tech policy exchanges, which will draw upon Indian and Australian expertise and deepen India-Australia tech uni ties and will be run by Australia's leading independent think tanks, the Australian Strategic Policy Institute. And, a cyber bootcamp, which will share cyber expertise in countries in South Asia and will be developed by the Australian National University's National Security College. 

Most of you would be broadly aware of the remarkable breadth of cooperation between Australia and India. As a multicultural nation, we are proud to share common ground with nearly every country in the world. We share a particularly close connection with India. Australians lay claim to 300 different ancestors. Half of our population in Australia is either born overseas or has a parent born overseas, and we're proud to be home to the oldest continuing culture in the world, with First Nations' heritage stretching back more than 60,000 years. 

The 2021 Australian census showed that the Indian diaspora is the fastest growing community in our country, with almost 1 million people of India's (sic) population, of almost 26 million, claiming Indian heritage. Of those, nearly [indistinct] born in India. Australia's Indian diaspora is our second largest overseas-born group and our fastest growing, and I know this first-hand.  My community [indistinct], 1 in 10 of my voters were born in India. So, to make life [indistinct] for Australians [indistinct] participate in Holi, in Diwali, in [indistinct], in all of the cultural celebrations that make this continent so vibrant.

We're also known in Melbourne for the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne - the biggest annual Bollywood film festival in the world outside India. I recently attended this year's festival in Melbourne and had the singular privilege of being capped with Bollywood megastar Abhishek Bachchan.

And my workplace, Australia's Federal Parliament, is finally starting to represent modern Australia. My colleague and great friend, Zaneta Mascarenhas, entered parliament in May in the recent federal election. In her maiden speech she told Australia's Parliament, "Who would guess that someone like me would be elected as the Federal Member of Swan? I stand here as the child of Goan Indian parents, a Kalgoorlian girl, a Swan local, a mum, a lady with an unusual first name and long surname, a climate change specialist and an engineer." I am proud to work alongside representatives like Zaneta. She's just one of the many energetic, young, ambitious, dynamic, and influential Australians of our Indian-Australian diaspora.

This diaspora forms an integral part of our democracy and enriches every single part of Australian life. It contributes in an outsized way to our future growth, prosperity and security. That's why we're in [indistinct], in towns [indistinct] of the Indian-Australian community by opening a new Centre for Australia-India Relations in Australia. The Centre will administer a suite of aptly known [indistinct] programs to deepen our education, cultural and policy [indistinct]. 

So, if I can leave you with one message today, it's that when it comes to Australia, it's worth scratching beneath the surface. We're a great destination for technology companies and talent to invest, to grow, to study, and to live. Thank you for your time. I look forward to today's discussion.

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