JULIE BISHOP: Thank you for that delightful introduction and thank you to the sponsors. I am absolutely delighted to be here to address the Australian British Chamber of Commerce and I acknowledge the British Consul-General, friends of Australia, friends of Britain.
What a week it has been in international affairs!
We started with the G7 meeting in Quebec. Now, these are our closest friends and partners. It was the G8 and it now risks becoming the G6 with the US joining Russia in the sin bin. Then the United States blamed Canada for burning down the White House - admittedly it was in 1812, and it was actually the British. Then the United States and Canada almost came to blows over tariffs on dairy products and this caused such a backlash amongst some Americans that there's been an outpouring of love for Canada on US social media, and they're talking about those wonderful Canadian imports, Celine Dion, maple syrup, ice hockey.
And then, a US trade representative said that there was a special place in hell for Justin Trudeau, while President Trump said he had a special bond with Kim Jong-un aka, the little rocket man. With the US fighting Canada and making friends with North Korea, who can make sense of what's going on?
And what about that summit in Singapore? It was an extraordinary event by any measure. I was glued to the TV for 24, 36 hours, and after a while I became quite mesmerised by the contrasting hairstyles of the two leaders.
And then I started hallucinating - do you think the third most recognisable political hair in the world had something to do with this? After all, Britain is one of a few western countries that has an embassy in Pyongyang. Did I detect the deft hand of Boris Johnson in bringing together this budding bromance?
I have to admit to this audience - and it won't go outside this room, will it? - that my favourite Foreign Minister of all time is Boris Johnson and it's not just because he's a running partner, but he also has a delicious sense of humour. Boris himself tells a story that when Theresa May became Prime Minister, she was handed a list of potential appointments to her Cabinet and she was asked to mark her preferences, Phillip Hammond - Chancellor of the Exchequer, Liam Fox - Trade Secretary. Down the list, Boris Johnson - she put: "FFS". Some people thought she meant: "For Foreign Secretary”.
Boris does have an infectious enthusiasm for the relationship between Australia and the United Kingdom. Few countries, particularly not two countries that are 16,000km apart, can claim to be as close as Australia and Britain.
We have a shared history, a shared monarch, a shared language. Our cultural, institutional, government, diplomatic, security and trade and investment, and (I was going to say sporting, but don't mention the cricket), sporting ties are deep and unbreakable. In fact, in the latest Census, it shows that Australians claiming British ancestry is the largest identity group in our Census. Indeed, a number of our politicians have recently learned that they are British to their boot straps.
This year, also marks the centenary of the end of World War I when Australian and British troops fought side-by-side in the War to End all Wars - and this began a most remarkable relationship in defence, security and intelligence that endures to this day.
It is also the centenary this year of the establishment of Australia House on the Strand in London. That magnificent landmark was Australia's first overseas mission and today it is the longest continuously occupied, diplomatic building of any country in the United Kingdom.
If you haven't been there, you will probably recognise the glorious marble interior from the Harry Potter films because it features as Gringotts, the wizard's bank.
David and I were in London in April and we were at Australia House for the launch of the Invictus Games in Sydney this October with Prince Harry and Megan - such a lovely couple. You couldn't help but be struck by the magnificence of Australia House, remembering that it was constructed throughout the war years, it opened in 1918. At the time, Australia was a country of less than 5 million people, our economy was about a 10th size of Britain’s, yet we invested at that time £1 million, which in today's currency would be about $100 million, in building a mission in London. Such was the importance that we placed on our relationship with Great Britain.
Today, of course, Britain is the fifth largest economy in the world and Australia is the 13th, we are about half the size of Britain’s economy now. It is important to think of the depth of our trade and investment relationship after all these years. We have a two-way investment relationship, $480 billion worth of British stock in Australia, about $330 billion worth of Australian stock in Britain. Britain is our second largest investor, after the United States. Many major British companies are in Australia, BP for example, Astra Zeneca. Many important Australian companies are in Britain - our four big banks, Macquarie Bank, Westfield, are all situated in London.
The Anglo-Australian mining companies, Rio Tinto, BHP Biliton, are all global multinationals. Without doubt, the Australia-UK trading relationship is strong. The UK is our seventh largest trading partner and about three quarters of a million British tourists come to Australia every year, a comparable number of Australian tourists go to Britain each year. We sent you Kylie Minogue and apparently Gordan Ramsay has threatened to retire to Australia. So that’s a fair swap.
I think, that notwithstanding, the depth and breadth of our relationship, we will see a renaissance, we will see a renewed interest in Australia and Britain as partners around the world.
We are both open, liberal democracies committed to freedoms and the rule of law and democratic institutions. We are open export-oriented market economies. Our economic growth and our standard of living depends on our ability to trade our goods and services, in the case of the UK, into the EU, in the case of Australia, primarily into Asia.
We are both defenders and upholders of the international rules-based order - that network of alliances, treaties, institutions, conventions and norms underpinned by international law that has governed how states act and how states should behave towards each other since the end of the Second World War.
That international rules based order is coming under increasing strain. It is being challenged by some nations, it is being ignored by others. Non-state actors are threatening its existence. This international rules-based order is also suffering from a rise in protectionism and economic nationalism, the changing dynamics between the major powers in the world and a sense that the sovereignty of nations and the territorial integrity of nations can be at risk.
It is as important now as it ever has been for Australia and the United Kingdom, together with like-minded countries to join in supporting, defending, promoting and strengthening that international rules-based order. It has prevented a third global conflict. We have seen the greatest rise of prosperity in human history in just the last 70 years.
Brexit presents an extraordinary opportunity for Australia to deepen even further our trade and investment relationship with Britain. This will be a huge opportunity for Australian business in Britain and British businesses in Australia. We are hoping to commence negotiations for a free trade agreement with the UK as soon as the UK is able after exiting from the EU. We are ambitious. We are looking for a comprehensive, high quality free trade agreement that will reduce costs for businesses, that will, through high-quality rules, reduce complexity. It will be of great benefit to our respective business communities.
Our two Governments have already established a free trade agreement working group and our officials met in Canberra in April and will meet again in London in July and I know that we are working closely with the Australia-British Chamber of Commerce to identify potential opportunities.
If we are able to conclude a free trade agreement with the EU and Cecilia Malmström, the EU Trade Commissioner, is coming to Australia next week to commence formal negotiations, and then in time we are able to conclude a free trade agreement with the UK, this will send a very powerful message around the world in support of free and open liberalised trade and investment.
Australia has a very ambitious trade agenda. We have concluded free trade agreements, as you’ll be aware, with China, Japan, Korea. We are in the process of concluding an agreement with Indonesia. We are hoping to conclude RCEP, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, with the ten ASEAN countries and six other trading partners.
And of course, against the odds, we concluded the Trans Pacific Partnership, the TPP-11, which was to be the TPP-12 but now 11. I know the United Kingdom has expressed interest in joining it, not being a Pacific country but we are not being too particular about geography. It is a high quality agreement and we would certainly welcome the UK.
In April this year the United Kingdom hosted the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, coming as it did, after the success of the Commonwealth Games here in Australia. The Queen met with the 53 Heads of Government from the 53 Commonwealth nations.
It is remarkable organisation. Countries that were originally connected through being part of the British Empire are now bound by their commitment to a common set of values: democracy, freedom, rule of law, support for the international rules-based system. Countries that had no previous history with the United Kingdom are joining and seeking to join the Commonwealth.
I think we will see a renewed interest in the Commonwealth as it becomes a significant force for good around the world, given that its membership covers all the continents with country members from all around the world.
At our meeting in April, and perhaps a number of you were at the Commonwealth Business Forum, we discussed trade and investment and the opportunities for us to have closer engagement within and amongst the Commonwealth countries.
We adopted a Commonwealth Trade and Investment Declaration - again, a statement in support of free and open trade. There was also another initiative that I am really excited about. It will be a joint venture between the United Kingdom and Australia, our Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the UK’s Department of International Development. It will address the fact that worldwide there are about a billion people who have no official identification - no birth certificate, no credit card, no licence. It makes it near on impossible for them to gain an education, a job, healthcare. We are teaming up with Telcos around the world to undertake the Commonwealth Digital Identification Initiative. Through this we will be able to provide people around the world with an official identification. Two thirds of that billion people who don’t have this identification are in Commonwealth countries. This initiative will make a major difference to the lives of so many of our fellow Commonwealth citizens.
One other exciting initiative that came from our discussions in CHOGM was the fact that the United Kingdom is showing a renewed commitment to the Pacific. There are about 11 Pacific nations that are members of the Commonwealth and while Australia sees the Pacific as our responsibility, it’s our neighbourhood, its our region, and we are the largest aid donor into the Pacific, no one country can meet the needs, particularly the infrastructure needs of the Pacific, as we seek to ensure that it is a prosperous and peaceful part of the world.
We work with a range of partners in the Pacific, with the individual island countries but also the United States, China, Japan and New Zealand. Britain has now recommitted to the Pacific to work in partnership with us. It is an increasingly contested, congested space and I look forward to developing our partnership. And I was delighted that Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson also announced at the CHOGM meeting that Britain will be opening three new diplomatic posts in the Pacific, Samoa, in Tonga and in Vanuatu.
Later next month I will be travelling to London for the tenth annual AUKMIN, the Australia UK Ministerial Forum. At this event, it’s called a ‘2 + 2’, foreign secretaries and defence secretaries from Australia and the UK meet together with our defence, and security intelligence chiefs and we discuss a whole range of issues of how we can work more closely together in partnership, how we can address regional issues and how we can make a difference globally.
This is a most remarkable relationship. As Britain is preparing to exit the EU it presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity for Australia and Britain to leverage this extraordinary relationship that will do much for the benefit of the citizens in both our countries.
- Minister's office: (02) 6277 7500
- DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555