Australia - Gulf Economic Relations

The GCC Business Mission to Queensland

Parliament House, Brisbane

Speech. Check against delivery, E&OE

9 May 2011

I acknowledge the first Australians whose land we meet on.

I also acknowledge our guests from across the Arab world.

Ahlan wa sahlan bi-kum fee medina-tee Brisbane.

[Welcome to my home town of Brisbane.]

It is my pleasure to welcome you all to Queensland.

I extend a particular welcome to Her Excellency Reem Al Hashemi.

As head of your delegation and a person of great stature in your region and beyond, you are an honoured guest in this state and in this country.

I also extend a special welcome to the distinguished delegates from the Gulf Cooperation Council mission, as well to Gulf Ambassadors and to the Consul General of Oman.

And to each and every member of the GCC business delegation, I offer my personal welcome and my personal thanks.

Your effort to make the journey to Australia is very much appreciated.

Three months ago I said that as Foreign Minister I wanted to do some practical things to help with economic recovery in my home state of Queensland. I’d said we’d bring the diplomatic corps to Queensland to demonstrate that Queensland is back in business.

We delivered on that one month later when 75 Canberra-based diplomats spent three days here looking at business opportunities both here and in far North Queensland.

I also said we’d have a trade and investment mission with the dynamic economies of the Gulf.

And today we deliver on that commitment as well.

We want your delegation to know Queensland. We want you to understand Queensland. We want you to appreciate Queensland. And when you do, we know that you will want to trade and invest with this great state.

Because Queensland has consistently been one of the strongest performers across the Australian economy itself — one of the strongest economic performers in the world.

Welcome also to the Australian business and industry representatives and to the university students from across the Arab world now studying in Australia.

You are the hope of the future in building new bridges between our lands in the future.

Let me say to you all clearly — I am deeply committed to our engagement across the GCC. From whichever perspective you look, this is a region of growing importance to Australia.

We understand the greater significance you and your region has for the world — we understand it, and we have factored it in to our foreign policy, our security policy and our economic policy.

That is why we have established a strategic dialogue between Australia and the GCC.

Just two months ago, I participated in the inaugural GCC-Australia Foreign Minister’s Strategic Dialogue in Abu Dhabi. At that time, we in Queensland were still coming to terms with the natural disasters that had hit us. From every part of the Arabian peninsula, your foreign ministers expressed their solidarity with us, at a difficult time.

And when I asked whether your Ministers would encourage a business delegation to come to Queensland, the answer was a resounding ‘yes’.

And here we are today — not much more than two months later.

I appreciate your Governments’ commitment.

Both the Strategic Dialogue and the business and investment content of this mission are examples of the dynamic nature of the relationships between Australia and the countries and economies of the Gulf.

Australia’s relations with the GCC are underpinned by our substantial trade and economic ties and close people-to-people links.

Two-way trade with the GCC was $8.7 billion in 2010, and includes some significant areas:

  • Gulf countries buy 81 per cent of Australia’s car manufacturing exports, worth A$1.45 billion
  • And the GCC is our main supplier of crude petroleum

In education, there were nearly 17 000 Gulf student enrolments in 2010.

But neither side is satisfied with this.

We both look to the future and to what new opportunities lie over the horizon. That is what this delegation is all about — exploring and identifying new opportunities.

As you will hear time and again over the next two days, there is significant scope to expand two-way trade and investment further.

And what we are here to talk about is Queensland.

If you looked at your flight map on your way in to Brisbane, you would have instantly got a sense of how big Queensland is.

And the opportunities Queensland offers are just as big. This is the second largest state in Australia, with the third highest population. Its Gross State Income is a quarter of a trillion dollars. That makes it the third largest in Australia. It also makes Queensland a bigger economy than, say, Portugal, Singapore, Nigeria or Chile.

And it’s a very hospitable environment in which to do business. The infrastructure is first class. Skills levels are world class with world class universities and research institutes, most particularly in the life sciences. The mining and resources sector is one of the most powerful in the world — including coal and LNG.

The agricultural sector is large, dynamic and diverse — and the agribusiness opportunities are immense. Our engineering and construction companies are world class. The financial services sector is strong. The biotechnology sector and renewable energy sector is strong and with a world class research base, as well as a significant defence and aerospace sector. And foreign investment is welcome.

Queenslanders are resilient people and it’s reassuring to know that our economy is just as strong.

Also, as welcome guests in our state, you already know that tourism is also strong — great natural attractions; ease of access to the Gulf; great family holiday destinations, and welcoming people.

Tourism is a critical industry in Queensland. You will have the chance to see one of Australia’s top tourist destinations when you travel to the Gold Coast tomorrow. But the state at large is rich in tourism from the tropical wanders of far North Queensland, the Great Barrier Reef that that stretches down the coast, not to mention the Sunshine Coast just to our North.

And investment, again, is welcome.

There are many other sectors that I expect would interest Gulf investors, importers and exporters would be interested.

Some of you attended the inaugural Australia Arab Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s Business Forum and Expo in Melbourne last week. This will have given you an appreciation of the opportunities across wider Australia and provided you with a major networking opportunity. And now you have the opportunity to focus in on this great state and learn more about all of the opportunities it offers.

You have already made an investment in Queensland by making the time to travel here for this GCC Business Delegation. I’d ask to you to make sure to capitalise on this investment by taking advantage of all the opportunities on offer over the next two days.

Australia is the 13th largest economy in the world - that is about the same size of the combined economies of the Gulf.

The synergies between Australia and the economies of the Gulf are great. There is so much we can do together. Let us build that future together.

The Australian Government is committed to helping support trade, investment and business ties with the Gulf into the future so that they flourish.

This mission would not have been possible without the strong support of Premier Anna Bligh and the Queensland Government, for which I say thank you.

Premier Bligh’s government has worked closely with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to put together an informative, large and enjoyable program, which will showcase some of the special offerings of this State.

My ambition for this visit is to make this a real turning point in the future economic relationship.

Atamanna la-kum ziyarah tayyibah wa mufeedah. Shukran.

I hope you have a good and profitable visit. Thank you.

ENDS

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