AustCham Singapore

Speech, check against delivery

Singapore

26 February 2014

Introduction

It's a pleasure to be here.

The AustCham network is important for bringing like-minded Australians together.

Meeting with AustCham is always a highlight of my visits abroad.

I have had the pleasure of addressing AustCham events in several places such as Shanghai and Hong Kong.

In the past five months I have travelled widely.

I have met with public policy-makers in many parts of the world.

Most recently I was in Davos for the World Economic Forum.

I have observed an emerging disillusionment with interventionist approaches that typified public policy in the aftermath of the GFC.

There is a lack of faith in continued government spending; debt fuelled spending and other intervention, to deliver sustainable economic growth and job creation.

Instead, countries are looking for alternative approaches to drive growth and to bring down unemployment.

They are looking to trade and investment.

There is an eagerness to replace 'big government' with robust growth in the private sector.

The key role of government is to create the conditions, the atmosphere, for business to invest and grow.

Freeing up business can help underpin future growth.

This was a theme articulated by the Treasurer Joe Hockey during the recent G20 Finance and Central Bank Governors meeting in Sydney.

The theme resonated with other G20 members.

This message has been consistent from my side of politics since our early days in opposition.

There is a rare opportunity to influence global economic policy in our role as chair of the G20 this year.

As a new government we are spreading the message that Australia is open for business.

Australia like Singapore is well placed to capitalise on the exploding middle class across the Asia Pacific.

We want the world to invest in Australia.

And we want Australian businesses to flourish abroad.

What you are all doing in Singapore serves as a great example.

Back home we are doing all we can to make it easier to do business.

We want to end unsustainable government spending, the endless rule changes and damaging new taxes.

In our first week we introduced bills to repeal the mining tax and the carbon tax, to fast-track the appeals process for investment, and to reinstate the Building and Construction Commission.

In our first three months Greg Hunt approved 125 projects worth $400 billion.

Some had been stalled for up to six years under the previous government.

As Trade and Investment Minister, I am guided by four principles:

  • living within our means – that means restoring the Budget to surplus, paying down debt
  • pursuing substantial deregulation and reducing the cost of doing business
  • restoring a culture of personal responsibility; and
  • backing our strengths as a country.

Backing our strengths

Despite bumps along the road Australia's economic fundamentals are strong.

We are in our 23rd year of consecutive growth.

We are very strong in five key global growth sectors – education, resources, agriculture, tourism and funds management and services more broadly.

In our pension funds we have the fourth largest sum of money globally $1.7 trillion – that is likely to grow over the next fifteen years to around $5 trillion.

Like Singapore we have sophisticated links with the Asian economies and together there is huge scope to build on this.

Singapore is one of THE global business and wealth centres, second only to Switzerland in terms of centres for global wealth management.

Since the First Fleet Australia has relied on foreign investment.

This continues today; we need to attract new foreign capital to help realise new opportunities and deliver projects like core infrastructure.

We are keen to improve Australia's attractiveness to Singaporean investors.

We are also looking to make it easier for Singaporean business people to engage with Australia.

Even small things help make a difference.

Earlier today I announced that Singapore passport holders will become the first in Asia to be granted access to SmartGate arrangements in our airports.

This will make it quicker to get through the airport and into town to do business.

It helps make us more competitive against other jurisdictions.

I also visited Rolls Royce.

The Australian economy is in transition.

Auto-manufacturing is coming to an end.

We are looking for new opportunities for component manufacturers.

On the door-step of my electorate is one of biggest mid-tier manufacturing hubs in Australia.

Aviation is one area that can provide a new direction for adaptable manufacturers.

We also want to encourage more Australian businesses to expand and diversify into Asia, like so many of you have done.

If you look at the Australian operators in Singapore, they reflect our strengths.

Lend Lease have their Asia Pacific headquarters in Singapore and have built many world class and award winning buildings across the island.

They partner closely with the Building and Construction Authority of Singapore to promote green building technology in civil, commercial and residential construction.

The Australian architects Woodhead designed the interior of Terminal 3 at Changi and the iconic Singapore National Library building.

Hawker Pacific are here servicing a wide range of business, including a deal signed last year to service Embraer Executive Jets.

In education, the local subsidiaries of James Cook University, Curtin University and the William Angliss and Box Hill institutes.

The banks and financial services providers hard at work here – ANZ, Macquarie, NAB, CBA, Westpac, AMP, QBE and Colonial.

Australian health and medical devices like Cochlear and Sirtex have a strong presence.

And major Australian airlines like Qantas and Jetstar.

Across so many industries, our two countries are already major partners.

We want to drive the Australian-Singaporean collaborations of the future.

Singapore is Australia's fifth largest two-way trade partner and our fourth largest source of foreign investment.

Since coming to office we have concluded negotiations on our FTA with South Korea.

We are actively negotiating to finalise the Japan and China FTAs.

We do this on the back of our existing FTAs - with Malaysia, ASEAN, Chile, Thailand, the US, New Zealand, and of course with Singapore, which was actually the second nation to sign an FTA with Australia (after NZ).

We are also pleased to see TPP and RCEP negotiations advancing.

Conclusion

Our business people in Singapore are Australia's representatives not only here but on the frontline into Asia.

We can build on this, and I expect that you will tell me how we can do this.

This century can be spectacular and we have the resources, the capacity and the expertise not only to build ties with each other but to expand our links into the broader region.

Thanks for coming today – I look forward to working with you.

Media enquiries

  • Trade Minister's Office: (02) 6277 7420
  • DFAT Media Liaison: (02) 6261 1555