The Hon Anthony Byrne MP, Former Australian Parliamentary Secretary for Trade
Australian Commonwealth Coat of Arms

Australian Export Award (AEA) Winners and AEA Hall of Fame Dinner

Speech

Four Seasons Hotel, Sydney

19 August 2009

Thanks Peter and thank you all for coming along tonight.

I'm very pleased to be here in Sydney to enjoy a relaxed dinner with such a distinguished group of Australian exporters and supporters of trade.

I'd like to thank Austrade and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry for organising this evening's event as part of the annual Australian Export Awards program. 

It is very important that we not only recognise our highest export achievers but also that we have more intimate events like this where we can share experiences and knowledge and you get a direct voice to Government policy makers.

I would like to acknowledge Angus Armour, the MD and CEO of the Export Finance Insurance Corporation, and Richard Green and Symon Brewis-Weston of the Commonwealth Bank.

Both organisations are long-term sponsors of the Australian Export Awards Program.  

Many of you, I know, won awards in the different categories of the Australian Export Awards last December and I congratulate you on your success.

And of course we have here tonight the outstanding winner of the 2008 Prime Minister's Australian Exporter of the Year, Dr Julie and Chris Vonwiller of Appen.

I understand this is the first time the various winners of the 2008 Australian Export Awards have had the chance to sit down and meet each other.

In addition to category winners, we have the consistently high achievers represented by our Hall of Fame winners.  

I hope over the entrée you had a chance to talk to your colleagues in and get to know them a little better. 

While we do not want to put too much structure around this evening, we also do not want to miss the opportunities created by all of you being in one room and so I look forward to hearing your thoughts around some of the issues Peter O'Byrne set out.

I expect to meet most of you before the evening is finished and I certainly value the opportunity to learn from some of Australia's best exporters.

As many of you would know, the Australian Export Awards program for 2009 is well underway and we are now looking forward to the National Awards Ceremony in November.

In these challenging economic times, it's important to recognise our exporting successes.

As Peter said earlier, you are leading the way, inspiring other companies to follow in your footsteps.

Every one of the Award winners is an inspirational success story.  For example:

The GFC and Australia

We as a nation are weathering the global financial crisis better than most and we will be better prepared when the world economy starts growing once again.

Despite recording a negative quarter of growth in December 2008, we remain the strongest economy in the OECD.

The Reserve Bank now forecasts that Australia's economy will grow by half a per cent this year, and even more strongly next year.

We have the fastest growth, lowest debt, lowest deficit and second lowest unemployment of all major advanced economies.

The Australian Government has taken decisive action to tackle worst economic crisis since great depression.

Firstly, the Australian Government put a floor under economy through the introduction of the Government's bank guarantee, which has secured the savings of 15 million Australians.

Secondly, in tandem with the bank guarantee, the Australian Government committed itself to a major fiscal stimulus package.

This package was designed to reinvest in the nation's future with a major infrastructure program.

Thirdly, for Australia, one of the great lessons of the crisis has been the central role of Asia, especially China, for our export industries and our general prosperity.

China and India's growing demand for our goods and services has bolstered our economy and reinforced the central role of Asian markets for Australia's future.

Just look at this morning's news of our $50 billion dollar gas deal with China.

As Treasurer Wayne Swan pointed out earlier this month, Australia stands to be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the shift in global growth to Asia, what he called the “Asian Century”.

Fourthly, Australia's economy has also been the beneficiary of a generation of economic reforms, which started with the Labor governments of the 1980s and continued into the 1990s.

This Government wants to emphasise that trade is vitally important for our growth and economic prosperity

Trade is a multiplier. Trade in global terms has grown at three times the rate of world output over the last 50 years. Trade is also a stimulus, which is why world leaders have elevated it to the suite of measures to address the global financial crisis.

One in five Australian jobs — or almost 2.5 million positions — are trade-related

But perhaps the most important reason we have pulled through the GFC so well is:

Most of all, you are innovators.

When I look around this table, I see a commitment to R&D; an appreciation of the value of your staff.

I see people who are unceasing in their pursuit of opportunities.  And who have the vision to look past the barriers and welcome the challenges.

You are the best of the best.

You are our leaders on the road to economic recovery.

Conclusion

It's is imperative that the Australian community better understands the vital and significant role of trade and investment to our future prosperity.

While we recognise our sporting heroes at every opportunity, now it is time to profile our exporting heroes.

Programs such as the Australian Export Awards go some way to highlighting, not only your success, but also the importance of trade and investment to Australia's fortunes.

So tonight we are celebrating your achievements. 

In that vein, I'm pleased to announce tonight that Russell Mineral Equipment will be admitted to the exclusive club that is the Australian Export Awards Hall of Fame, at the 47th awards ceremony in November this year.

So tonight, I am here to listen to you, to work out how we can work collaboratively to better advance Australia's interests abroad.

Next week Trade Minister Simon Crean will launch Trade 2020, our landmark trade conference to generate ideas and vision for Australia's trade and investment success in the next decade.

I hope that many of you are able to contribute to that conversation.

And I'd like to start that conversation tonight.

So relax and enjoy the evening. I look forward to talking to all of you.

Thank you.

ENDS