Thank you Naomi. 

Premier Daniel Andrews, High Commissioner Navdeep Suri, friends of India, friends of Australia.

Notwithstanding the weather, it’s an absolute joy to be back in one of the most liveable cities on the planet – beautiful, intriguing, dynamic Melbourne. The home of many magnificent arts, cultural and sporting events, and while Melbourne retains its old-world charm and grace, it is readily embracing new ideas and innovative thinking. 

The Federal Government has put innovation at the heart of our policies to drive economic growth and development – that means investing in our creativity industries. It’s worth noting that Australia’s creative industries contribute around $90 billion each year to our national GDP.

In my area of foreign affairs and international relations, I have established what I call ‘cultural diplomacy’ as a fundamental pillar of our foreign policy. And this means promoting the creativity and talents of our artists, our architects, fashion designers, film producers, musicians – through our diplomatic network, high commissions and embassies – around the world. This means more opportunities for tourism and trade and investment, and that means more opportunities for jobs and economic growth here in Australia. It also means that we enhance our strategic and security and economic relationships with other countries through cultural exchange with partner nations. 

To this end, Naomi Milgrom and her Foundation are outstanding exemplars of the kind of public-private partnerships in the creative sector that harness the talents of our brilliant Australian people and create the kind of awareness and understanding with other nations that also drives our economic interests.

MPavilion is a shining example of cultural diplomacy and Bijoy Jain, as the architectural designer par excellence, this year is another stunning example of using this initiative to raise awareness and understanding with India and the relationship with Australia. The associated workshops, meetings and initiatives taking place in this stunning structure will only add to the level of collaboration and interest between our two nations. 

Of course we have a longstanding relationship with India based on our historic, strategic, political, societal links that go way beyond our shared common values, our commitment to democracy and the rule of law, our membership of the Commonwealth, our passion for cricket. 

Indeed we are currently negotiating a closer economic partnership with India. Thousands of Indian students come to Australia to study in our universities and our higher education institutions and now, under the Australian Government’s New Colombo Plan, Australian undergraduates from all our universities have the opportunity to live and study and undertake internships and work experience in India. In fact in 2017 alone, 1000 Australian students will be studying and living in India under the New Colombo Plan and returning to Australia, hopefully with new perspectives and new insights into the Australia-India relationship but more importantly, setting up connections and friendships that will last a lifetime.

Prime Minister Modi’s recent visit to Australia in 2014 was an outstanding success, and at that time he announced that in 2016 there would be a Festival of India in Australia, and I know that has been a resounding success. So MPavilion is the physical manifestation of the spirit of cooperation, the exchange of ideas, between Australian and India. 

Finally we pay tribute to my friend Naomi Milgrom. I can confirm that this is not her only initiative that promotes Australian talent and engages with international partners, for of course, as Australia’s Commissioner to the Venice Biennale in 2017, Naomi will continue to promote arts and culture, not only here in Australia but around the world and for that I thank her.

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