Minister Iswaran, High Commissioner Bruce Gosper, Steve Leonard from SG Innovate, friends of Australia, friends of Singapore, ladies and gentlemen.
I’m absolutely delighted to be here at BASH (which I assumed meant Building Awesome Startups Here, but I’m told it’s Building Amazing Startups) and to see so many dynamic, bright, committed, focused people who are helping to build an even stronger relationship between Australia and Singapore.
As the Minister indicated, we are natural partners. We have a similar world view from a shared history, common values, interests and outlooks. And this culminated in the establishment of a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between Australia and Singapore. Under that CSP we are focusing on greater security and defence collaboration, deeper economic and trade and investment ties, a focus on scientific and research and innovation collaboration, and of course our very strong people-to-people links, whether it be in education or tourism or culture or beyond.
At about the same time the Australian Government also established a National Innovation and Science Agenda. As part of that agenda we decided to set up these landing pads around the world to give a focus to the enterprising entrepreneurial spirit of so many creative and innovative young Australians. These landing pads have been established in San Francisco, Shanghai, Tel Aviv, in Berlin and now here in Singapore. I’ve had the opportunity to visit the landing pads elsewhere and I’ve been excited by the deep interest that has been shown by the host country, by investors, by young Australians in particular and by those who want to see that innovative dynamism explode between Australia and other countries. And it is turning into reality. The ideas that people are nurturing in these landing pads have brought us some great successes.
The Geelong Events Workforce Group has come up with an online ticketing system that has been purchased by US Superbowl for the next 4 years. These are significant outcomes that have arisen from an idea nurtured in one of our landing pads.
Singapore was an obvious choice for us. As well as being such close friends and neighbours and having a very similar view on commercial and economic issues, it is also a gateway into Asia. As one of our closest partners we were keen to ensure that we could establish a landing pad here. Launch a landing pad or land a launching pad, whatever way you look at it. I’m so pleased to have met representatives of the four Aussie startups that are already here – hipflask, ebilities, Quitch and Zed, and we hope that in the next round we’ll be able to increase that number hopefully to about 10. The space here is magnificent; I understand ironically that this was a video recording manufacturing space. Well that just goes to show how quickly automation and technology moves on because we now have so many different enterprises operating from here.
For Australians this is a place where they can meet investors, meet people with similar or contrasting ideas, be part of an ecosystem that generates creative innovative thought.
Australians are very creative people, don’t just take my word for it. The Martin Prosperity Institute based in Toronto Canada every year put out a Creativity Index and Australia was judged against a range of criteria the most creative nation on earth. So our people are risk takers, they are innovative, they are creative, and they need an outlet beyond Australia for their ideas.
Here in Singapore we will see many Australians meet up with other like-minded people and who knows what can come from this collaboration. It’s all about competition, all about cooperation, collaboration, creativity.
Minister Iswaran mentioned the New Colombo Plan and indeed we will be having a New Colombo event here in Singapore during my visit. This is an idea I came up with when we were in Opposition and it seemed to me that while the original Colombo Plan in the 1950s and 1960s had done an amazing job in bringing young students from Southeast Asian countries to Australia to gain qualifications, attend our universities and get to know Australia, it was time that we did that in reverse. Hence the New Colombo Plan. The Australian Government supports young Australians to live and study and undertake a work experience or internship in one of 40 countries across the Indian Ocean and Asia-Pacific, and Singapore came onboard immediately. We had a pilot program, tested the concept in 2014, and Singapore was one of four locations that said yes, they would be pleased to be part of the pilot. It was such a success that in 2015 we rolled the New Colombo Plan out across more nations and now 40 are partners with us.
By the end of this year, 1000 Australian students will have lived and studied and undertaken a work experience here in Singapore under the New Colombo Plan. So with our student exchange, with our creative collaboration and this Landing Pad, I believe will make a significant difference in the way we see the world, the way we capture technology and the way we make a significant difference.
So I’m delighted to be here to launch the Australia Singapore Landing Pad and congratulate all those involved and thank you for having the vision and the understanding to make this a reality.
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