Thank you Joseph (Assaf), and congratulations to you on your extraordinary commitment to ethnic business in Australia.

I acknowledge my colleague, Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells the Minister for International Development and the Pacific, Senator Zed Seselja the Assistant Minister for Social Services and Multicultural Affairs, Michael Sukkar the Member for Deakin, the Honourable Philip Ruddock a former Howard Government Cabinet Minister and a great champion of ethnic communities across Australia.

I acknowledge the Honourable Tony Burke and the Honourable Anthony Albanese from the opposition.

Ladies and Gentlemen, sponsors, judges.

It is an absolute delight to be here this evening at the Annual Ethnic Business Awards.

Established almost three decades ago, and a cause of celebration for our ethnic multicultural society, as we are united in our commitment to shared values of freedom, tolerance and opportunity.

Our nation is as old as the First Australians, the oldest continuous human culture in history, and as young as the newest migrants who have come from all over the world to make a home in Australia.

Indeed Australia has been built on immigration. Since the Second World War over seven and a half million people have migrated to Australia. In fact about half of all Australians have one parent born overseas, about a quarter of all Australians were themselves born overseas.

Australia is a magnificent destination for people from all over the world. Let’s face it; we have one of the highest standards of living and one of the best lifestyles in the world. We’ve been described as a ‘lifestyle superpower’. Melbourne is consistently judged as one of the most livable cities on earth – there are a couple of other Australian cities who make that list as well from time to time!

We have welcomed people, embraced people, integrated people into our communities from every corner of the earth.

We are a land of freedom. We are committed to the rule of law and democratic institutions, and the rights of individuals.

We are a land of opportunity. People with an entrepreneurial spirit and the drive to work hard can find success in Australia and build a better life for their families.

Small business and business generally in Australia, the backbone of our economy, is synonymous in multicultural Australia for so many of our successful businesses are owned and operated by migrants, the children of migrants, the grandchildren of migrants, it’s multigenerational.

I am very proud that the party I represent, the Liberal Party, was actually founded as a party for small business. Our founding leader and Australia’s longest serving Prime Minister, Sir Robert Menzies, articulated a vision for this new party in a speech entitled ‘The Forgotten People’ in 1942, and he spoke of small business as being a core responsibility of our party.

Today small businesses, and particularly ethnic businesses, have played a critical role in driving a record run of economic growth in Australia – 25 consecutive years of economic growth. This year about 3 per cent, above that of the major economies of the G7, and we’ve seen about 300,000 jobs created over the last 12 months.

But if we are to continue to see economic growth and business success, we have to be innovative, we have to find new ways to do things better, and we have to be more competitive, for we operate in a global marketplace.

Now that’s what business does each and every day, they find new and better ways to do their business, to provide their services. They embrace technology, they change, they adapt, they are flexible.

That’s why the Turnbull Government last year established the National Innovation and Science Agenda, putting it at the heart of what we believe will be our continued economic success.

This means we support startups, we support alternative forms of funding, we support those who embrace technology and science and innovative ideas to ensure that whether the business is new or old, they keep ahead of the pack, and innovation is the key and Australian business knows that. We have many pioneers who have come up with world-leading ideas in many diverse fields.

So the stories we’ll hear tonight are about those who have succeeded, in being innovative, creative, and who have found success.

The government’s role, whoever is the government, is to create an environment where business can flourish, and that’s why we have negotiated and concluded three significant free trade agreements with China, Japan, South Korea, and we recently enhanced our free trade agreement with Singapore. This gives Australian businesses the opportunity to export their goods and services into some of the largest markets in the growing Asian region.

We have to have a competitive tax system. That’s why we have established a ten year enterprise tax plan, so that over the next decade the tax rate for all business will be 25 per cent, which makes us internationally competitive. And for those businesses that aren’t corporations, we have tax discounts.

This means that there will be more money in the pockets of businesses who can then re-invest in their businesses, employ more people and grow their businesses.

We’ve also provided incentives and packages to businesses so that they can employ more people – young and old – and more affordable childcare so that more women can come back into the workforce while raising a family.

I think some of the most exciting stories we’ll hear tonight will be in the award for Indigenous Business, as this will showcase the great diversity and creativity and talent of Indigenous Australians.

I believe that through these businesses we are seeing the role models for today and the leaders for tomorrow.

The Australian Government has an Indigenous Procurement Policy, which means that 3 per cent of Federal Government contracts are allocated to Indigenous businesses. It’s working very well and I would encourage the private sector to follow suit.

So ladies and gentlemen, tonight we are here to celebrate these awards which recognise one of the fundamental pillars of our success as a nation, that is, dynamic, creative businesses backed by a cultural understanding, a cultural heritage from the ethnic communities from where these came.

It’s a great night and I congratulate all the nominees and the winners on their success in being recognised this evening.

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