To the many distinguished guests here this evening, ambassadors, excellences, friends of Australia, friends of the European Union, Virginia, Ambassador Fabrizi, ladies and gentlemen.
In the presence of the United Kingdom High Commissioner, Menna Rawlings, may I again extend our deepest condolences to the people of Britain, the British Government, as we hear more of the shocking events that unfolded in London overnight. Our thoughts and our prayers are again with the victims and families of this shocking terrorist incident.
Last September High Representative Federica Mogherini and I announced the establishment of an initiative, for which time had well and truly come, the EU Australia Leadership Forum for Senior and Emerging Leaders. This inaugural meeting here in Sydney gives me great confidence that this forum will endure as a mechanism for high level discussions on the challenges and opportunities we face and ways in which we can cooperate with greater collaboration and partnerships.
We are likeminded countries and, while geography may divide us, our shared values unite us. Australia and the EU, open liberal democracies, free people, free markets, committed to the rule of law and defending and upholding the international rules based system. At times of great global uncertainty it is more important than ever that likeminded nations align their efforts to defend and uphold peace, freedom, tolerance and democratic values.
The EU is facing a period of volatility and uncertainty. There are signs of economic lethargy, structural unemployment, rising populism, mass movement of people, Brexit, Russian revisionism and the ever evolving threat of terrorism. While Australia also faces many regional challenges, what happens in Europe matters to us, matters to our region and matters globally.
Our fight against global terrorism is a shared fight and the events in Manchester and in London again and in other great European cities remind us of the magnitude of the task. With the EU we share the defence and security burden in fighting terrorism. We share information, we share intelligence, we share a resolve to defeat terrorism where ever it occurs.
On the economic front, the fundamentals are very positive. As a bloc the EU is one of our largest trading partners and I am delighted to advise that the stock of EU investment in Australia was over a trillion dollars last year. We have just completed a joint scoping exercise for an Australia-EU Free Trade Agreement and we hope we will soon be able to formalise the negotiations, but this will surely benefit both the EU and Australia as we lower tariffs, as we enhance the trade and investment opportunities.
This leadership forum has brought together thinkers, innovators, policy makers who have a broad agenda of issues to discuss. I wanted to touch on three areas of cooperation which are creative, exciting and give an indication of the breadth and depth of our collaboration and partnership.
Wine. Now we all enjoy a very good wine and I hope you do this evening. From the red varietals of Burgundy to the rich reds of the Margaret River, the EU and Australia have a deep appreciation of the joys of wine. In 2013 the Australian Wine Research Institute believed that we had so many common interests in our love of wine that we should come together as partners, competitors sure, but partners as well as we shared ideas and practices. With the University of Bordeaux in France and Hochschule Geisenheim University in Germany a trilateral partnership was set up to focus on expertise and sharing that with budding viticulturists. One young student from the University of Bordeaux, PhD student Marta Avramova has indeed undertaken studies at the Australia Wine Research Institute. She will be focusing on issues to do with wine yeast and fermentation.
But this kind of collaboration, as well as competition, obviously augurs well. In the areas of science we have seen great partnerships emerge, but there is another example, Geoscience Australia's Data Cube. This is an innovative way of collecting, organising, storing, the vast quantities of information that come from satellite imagery. With CSIRO and with the European Space Agency, Geoscience Australia is setting up an Indo-Pacific Data Cube where we can focus on monitoring the environment, monitoring water quality, preparing for natural disasters. We are also looking at developing a Data Cube for the Pacific.
Our satellite cooperation extends to New Norcia Space Station, about 140 kilometres from Perth. The New Norcia Space Station is assisting the European Space Agency in a number of its deep space missions, the Mars Express and Rosetta, which is a world's first, a probe landing on a comet. This is really innovative, exciting space science.
Also in the area of development assistance, Australia and the EU have been partnering in the Pacific, in our neighbourhood. A great example is the way we worked together in Fiji in the aftermath of Tropical Cyclone Winston in 2016. Not only have we provided humanitarian assistance but also investing in nation building. Together Australia and the EU are assisting Fijian men and women to gain qualifications so that they can work in the sugar industry. Already we have had a number of Fijians complete qualifications at the Australian Pacific Technical College so that they can work in the sugar industry. 160 Fijian women have now gained necessary and relevant qualifications.
I should also point out that I see another leadership role for Australia EU partnership, that is in the implementation of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. I believe the EU and Australia will need to take a leadership role as our citizens, and our scientists, and our policy makers come up with ideas for affordable, reliable, low emissions energy to drive our respective economies.
Ladies and gentlemen I am confident that this leadership forum will continue to drive the momentum that ensures our future, the future of Australia, the future of the EU, remains committed to peace, stability and prosperity.
I wish you all the very best for your forum and I look forward to hearing the outcomes of the inaugural EU Australia Leadership Forum.
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