Premier thank you for co-hosting this evening and for your very warm welcome. To State Ministers, Federal colleagues, ladies and gentlemen. I particularly want to welcome the Ministers and heads of delegation for our Indian Ocean Rim Association Council of Ministers’ Meeting that will be held tomorrow. You see here the flags of the 20 member nations and six dialogue partners and I’m looking forward to another productive meeting tomorrow. Of course this evening is a culmination of IORA Business Week. We have had a number of events leading up to the Ministerial Meeting tomorrow and I’m delighted that there are so many business representatives here this evening.
Premier Barnett and I share a common western boundary of our electorates. Colin’s electorate of Cottesloe and my Federal electorate of Curtin have as our western boundaries the shores of the Indian Ocean. So we are part of the Indian Ocean and as I’ve often said in Western Australian we look West and North. It’s not geographical, it’s a state of mind. On the other side of the country they look east.
We believe, as Colin has indicated, that we are on the edge of one of the most dynamic and vibrant regions in the world. The Indian Ocean is the third largest ocean in the world but it is also the least explored. It is a major and important transport route - about half the world’s container traffic goes through the Indian Ocean, about a third of the bulk container cargo, about two-thirds of the world’s oil shipments pass through the Indian Ocean.
The member states comprise 2 billion people, about 30 per cent of the world’s population is in the Indian Ocean Rim. So our 20 countries whose shores are lapped by the Indian Ocean represent a diverse and vibrant region and I believe that the best days of this region lie ahead of it.
The Indian Ocean Rim Association was established in 1997 and it is the only Ministerial-level organisation that focuses purely on the Indian Ocean Rim. In recent times we have narrowed our interest to six specific areas, but they cover an enormous range of issues - maritime security and safety, fisheries management, trade and investment, disaster risk reduction issues, academic, scientific and technological exchange and tourism cultural exchange.
Last year I added to the list what we call a cross-cutting issue of women’s empowerment. That is specifically focussing on the economic empowerment of women in the Indian Ocean Rim because some of the lowest labour force participation amongst women occurs in the Indian Ocean Rim. We know if more women were able to take part in the labour markets, the formal economies, the GDP of our region would increase significantly.
This morning I attended an Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry breakfast, and I want to thank Kate Carnell, Tracey Horton and Deidre Willmott from the West Australian chapter for hosting this breakfast on the economic empowerment of women. Australia has a few answers, not all of the answers, but we certainly have experiences to share and this morning’s breakfast I think started off this morning’s formalities in a very positive way because we did share experiences, ideas, thoughts, insights and perspectives and that’s what IORA is all about.
Tomorrow we will be focussing on the ‘blue economy’, in other words using our wonderful resource, the Indian Ocean, as part of our natural assets, our national assets, that we can use to drive economic growth.
Last year, when the new Australian Government came to office, Prime Minister Tony Abbott declared that Australia was “under new management and open for business” and we have sought to make Australia a more attractive place to do business – to invest and to trade with.
We focussed on a principle called ‘economic diplomacy’ and our foreign policy, our trade policy, our foreign aid policy is all under this principle of economic diplomacy. Just as traditional diplomacy aims to procure peace, so economic diplomacy aims to procure prosperity. We have brought these ideas of economic diplomacy to the Indian Ocean Rim Association. I said this afternoon, when we were out at the University of Western Australia meeting with the researchers and innovators in the Oceans Institute at UWA and the new Indian Ocean Marine Research Centre, that we must think of the Indian Ocean as an asset to drive economic growth.
I acknowledge again the very wise words of my friend and colleague the Foreign Minister of Seychelles, Jean Paul Adam, who said recently when I was in Mauritius and I caught up with Jean Paul, that Seychelles is 496 square kilometres in land mass but its EEZ is about 1.3 million square kilometres. So if you take each country and then its ocean, its economic zone around it, you have a substantial land mass to drive economic growth. And the ocean is such a wonderful asset, not just in fisheries and aquaculture, but mineral exploration, renewable energies, pharmaceuticals - it goes on and on.
So tomorrow I hope that we’ll spend time thinking creatively, thinking innovatively how we can drive sustainable economic growth, job opportunities, peace, prosperity and security in the Indian Ocean Rim. It’s our neighbourhood, it’s our home, this is where we want to make a positive difference.
So I thank everybody for being here this evening. I particularly look forward to working with the delegates for the Indian Ocean Rim Association meeting tomorrow and to the business observers and delegates, thank you very much for being involved. We are putting on IORA a much more economic focus and your support over the last week has been invaluable. Premier, thank you again for co-hosting this evening.
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