Transcript of Speech: Australia Canada Economic Leadership Forum



07 July 2015

Pan Pacific Hotel, Vancouver, Canada

We talk a lot, and I'm sure we will in the next couple of days, about our shared values and the shared history, the likeness of our two countries. We have so many similarities, so many good similarities. We are ambitious, we are positive, we are outward-looking, and our finance ministers both have Joe as their first name. So many commonalities.

Thank you Heather for having me. Thank you Norman for organising this as well. And Norm, you're right, Heather does know everyone who you need to know in Australia.

When I worked for John Howard, Mr Harper had just become Prime Minister towards the end of our term in 2005, 2006 from memory. Mr Harper visited APEC and I remember Mr Howard remarking that Mr Harper was as like him as he could see in a centre-right leader. I think in my mind, and there'd be some Australians in this room who probably disagree, but I think Mr Howard was probably Australia's best prime minister and I think that's a fair compliment. Our current Prime Minister is developing into a great prime minister.

I think the point about where we are in the world is a good one. It's important to understand the world has never changed as quickly as it changes today and as legislators we face very difficult challenges in that respect. We face a globe that moves quicker than ever before; that innovators in Silicon Valley develop a new app which will change the world tomorrow. I often remember when I finished working for John Howard in 2007, the iPhone was released in 2007, and it's hard to believe that it was only just eight years ago. I mean the iPhone feels like old technology. It is unbelievable how quick the world moves and as legislators we've got to remember that we can't stand still. In the economic footrace, standing still is to go backwards. You get overtaken very quickly.

We often talk about and we should reflect upon the opportunities of the Asian century. It is the centre of power as President Obama has commented upon, it has moved to the Pacific, to the Asian region and that brings enormous opportunities for our country but it brings enormous challenges as well. We have competitors now everywhere across the globe; we have the biggest global warehouse or shop ever seen before. Millenniums as they are well-known are happy to shop anywhere on earth by just tapping on their phone. They no longer have any great tie to walking down the street to the bricks and mortar retailer to buy a pair of shoes. They buy from New York if they can get it cheaper and quicker than they can from their local retailer. So, there is a real challenge for countries, competing in a globe where it is moving fast. Our populations don't necessarily always like this fact either. Stability is a key, so we need as governments to drive stability but drive reform to ensure that we're competing, ensure that we can take the opportunities of that growth, and the growth is staggering.

We often talk about it, but we don't reflect always on the numbers. The OECD says that the Asian middle class in 2010 had some 525 million people in it; by 2030 it will be 3.2 billion. It's a staggering amount of growth. If you think at the moment there are about 1 billion middle class people in the world, that will be three times in nearly 15, 20 years. So, the growth opportunities are really substantial and that's why we've signed three free trade agreements. Andrew Robb, our outstanding Trade Minister has delivered free trade agreements with Korea, with Japan and with China, all in the first 20 months of our government and they are important free trade agreements and they are having an effect already. In fact, the Japanese free trade agreement, which we signed, begun operation in January, for the wine industry, which in my home electorate in the Adelaide Hills, McLaren Vale has all of Australia's best wine really. Already we're seeing an increase not just in volume, a 63 per cent increase in volume in the first two months of the operation of the Japanese free trading agreement with a 17 per cent increase in value in those sales. That's a real tangible benefit you're seeing out of these reforms, not just pieces of paper being signed by lofty people with high powered positions, actual real affect, growth, more jobs, high value, and more prosperity. That's what government's all about, that is what we do this job for, to make our people richer and more prosperous.

And we live in a generation that has seen in Australia 23–24 years of unimpeded economic growth. We haven't had a recession in over two decades. Anyone 40 and under- thankfully I can still claim that mantle—has never seen a recession, has never seen a time where getting a job was really hard, where paying the mortgage was really hard. We haven't seen a time where the economy isn't growing, where we haven't got those opportunities for the future. But that is all on the back of work that other generations have done and unless as a generation of political leaders now we take those opportunities and we reform our country and we make sure we can take advantage of today, our growth in tomorrow is not assured.

So, it is important we talk about how our tax system works and that's why we've got a white paper on the taxation system at the moment. A comprehensive white paper, we're not ruling things out to begin with. We're looking thoroughly through our taxation system to see how it can work better in a modern world. We're talking to the states about how federation can work better and the Camp David meeting that the Prime Minister is hosting with the premiers in the coming weeks will discuss difficult issues about funding, about how our health system should be funded, how our education system should be funded. What the split of responsibility should be in a modern world. How are we going to fund the future growth in those areas as we get older, as those challenges grow, to ensure that we've got those opportunities.

We're delivering upon free trade agreements as we said we would. We're focused on delivering and making and taking advantage of our growth. We're focused on small business. As Heather mentioned and as the Minister for Finance mentioned, Canada's doing the same thing because we know small business is the area that can really supercharge your economy. It's why we're cutting tax, the biggest tax cuts in small business history. Another commonality we've got with the Canadians. In our budget, we are particularly giving small business their opportunity to grow for the future so they can employ more people, so they can innovate. So, the entrepreneurs of tomorrow can have the opportunity that they can grow and start a company, grow a company and make their own luck, make their own opportunities.

We're investing in infrastructure because we know that's a key element to ensuring that we can take advantage of the growth in our region as well. We can get our products to market more efficient. We can move around our cities, we can be more productive and spend more time with our families, which is a vital part of a strong community and a strong economy.

Security in people's lives is vital whether it be ensuring that our national security is as strong as it should be, so people feel secure in their work, in their leisure and we do live in a time which is very uncertain and it will be a challenge for generations to come. Unfortunately, there are people in the world who hate who we are. We don't pick the fight but we're going to stand up against it and we stand with Canada against these people who seek to do us harm.

The economic security is absolutely vital to ensuring that our economy is strong, it means tangible benefits for our people and that's what it's all about. We often talk about our economy in a broad context and we forget it has got a real impact on people's lives, their capacity to buy a house, pay a mortgage, get a job, grow, have a family, get richer and live the life that they choose to live. That's exactly what public service is about and that's what government is about, but to do that we need to undertake reform, we need to invest in the right infrastructure and we need to ensure that our people are taking advantages of our time.

This forum, I think, gives the opportunity for like-minded people, some of Australia's great minds who are in the room. It is terrific to see how many Australians made the effort to come over to discuss with Canadian friends those shared values, those shared opportunities and ways we can learn from each other to make the most of our time, to make the most of this time, to ensure that tomorrow is as prosperous as yesterday was.

Thank you so much for listening to me.