Thank you Adrian for your introduction, to you and to Ann congratulations this is an amazing turnout here. There is that famous scene I think in Crocodile Dundee where at a certain point to get across the room, to of course the love of his life, Paul Hogan gets up like he’s in a full sheep yard, where shearers have known to run across the backs of sheep to get across from one side of the yard to the other. Appropriate story to tell here in New Zealand of course from Australia. But Paul Hogan got up and did that across the shoulders of everybody in that room, I felt like that I might have had to do that to get to the lectern tonight from my seat because we have got so many people here. 

Prime Minister, thank you very much for being here and for joining us, to you, to my good friend, your Ministerial colleague David Parker and your other Ministers. To Andrew Barr, the Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory and our Australian dignitaries who are here, High Commissioners, business leaders, investors, entrepreneurs, risk takers, employers, life-changers that you are and with such an incredible start to tonight to see those winners on this stage and more powerfully to hear from them about the life-changing work that they are doing.

Can I begin particularly by acknowledging and thanking Primer Minister Ardern, for your time here this evening — I’m very much looking forward to hearing your thoughts, but we are so grateful for the commitment you are demonstrating to the Australia-New Zealand relationship, to our business, commercial and entrepreneurial ties by you being here tonight, so thank you very much.

It is a wonderful pleasure for me to have come here from Canberra, you called me out of question time today so that was a bit of plus. As Australia’s Trade, Tourism and Investment Minister for a little over a year, now, I can tell you from experience that diplomatic circles abound with clichés about the closeness of two nations:

We’ve got a “Special partnership”, “We’re strategic friends”, “We’re enduring partners” or we have a “Comprehensive partnership” a “Strategic partnership” or sometimes even a “Comprehensive strategic partnership.”

Thankfully though we don’t need a thesaurus of clever diplomatic language to describe the depth of the Australian-New Zealand ties. Australia and New Zealand really are as close as two separate countries can be. We’re cut from the same cloth: immigrant antipodean nations each with their own proud indigenous cultures.

Free, democratic societies that believe in making our own luck, in chancing our arms on the world stage without fear of failure. Fair players, who believe the best way to shape the world around us is by dint of hard work and persuasion, by showing the rest of the world that we mean what we say, that we’re trustworthy, reliable partners.

I know people at these events often reflect on our military history together, the unique Anzac connection, and our sporting ties — I’m sure, Prime Minister, you will find some way to weave in something about the Bledisloe Cup.

But for one reason or another, I don’t want to dwell on rugby, at least not at this point in history.

Instead, the theme of this function being leadership, and innovation, with all the wonderful winners we’re hearing about tonight, I thought I’d reflect a bit on that topic.

When you think about leadership in a Kiwi context, obvious names always float to the top. Sir Edmund Hillary, one of the first two people, with Tensing Norgay, to climb Mt Everest.  Sir Ernest Rutherford, the father of nuclear physics.

Helen Clark, one of Prime Minister Ardern’s predecessors, and the first woman to lead the United Nations Development Programme. Russell Crowe, the famous Australian actor. Keith Urban, the famous Australian musician. Crowded House, the famous Australian rock band, formed in Melbourne.

The fact is — New Zealand has always produced leaders across the gamut of global fields, and wherever possible, Australia has always been glad to claim them as our own. Although the world recognises us both more for our values, our environment, our way of life and produce. We are, as you have seen on stage tonight, also proud innovators.

Australia’s innovation history dates back to the stump-jump plough, it infected many childhoods with the hill-hoist clothes line and more recently in includes Wi-Fi technology and the bionic ear.

New Zealand can be equally proud of your innovative capacity across diverse fields from the electric fence through to bungee jumping back to the disposable syringe. What we saw on stage tonight were life-changing technologies and innovations that both our nations can be proud of.

Our antipodean leadership is so important in so many ways. Everyone here knows what a difficult point in history we’re living through right now.

As global power relativities continue to shift to the Indo-Pacific, we face a much more contested global environment, one in which the givens of recent decades can no longer be quite so safely assumed.

In particular, we face challenges to the proven economic orthodoxy that trade is a driver of growth. Across our Asian region the opening of markets and expansion of trade has literally lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty, sustaining along the way growth in both developed and developing nations.

Yet, trade wars are upon us. Nationalist, protectionists, anti-internationalist or anti-multilateral sentiment are creating increasing economic and international pressures.

In the face of this Australia and New Zealand have a role to play, standing together, both government and leadership. Showing that economic leadership still pays dividends for our societies.

Responsible, bringing down barriers, opening up markets, driving investment stimulates growth, creates more jobs, allows us to fund essential services and social safety nets and to invest in our people and their capacity. It benefits rather than costs.

We need and we are as nations, to work together to support, and improve the central role of the World Trade Organization. David Parker and I have done so much work on this already and we’ll continue to do so and we do this because rules-based trade is what allows smaller, mid-sized economies to fairly compete on the world stage rather than endure might-is-right cohesion.

Our Single Economic Market initiative is an important strand in the liberalisation fabric of our region. How do we open our economies more, how do we work together better, to drive economic growth and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific?

Well few nations will ever come close to establishing the type of relationship that we share, but none the less our ties demonstrate the benefits of regional and global trade cooperation, that goes on beyond the traditional tackling of tariff and quota barriers. To establish con rules that allow value chains to grow, technologies to establish lower cost bases and individual skills to be transferrable and recognised.

From the comprehensive and progressive Trans Pacific Partnership through to other regional trade negotiations and to WTO cooperation I’ve been so pleased to work together with New Zealand to advance these objectives in areas of cooperation.

But importantly here, at this forum, you’ve come together as business and industry leaders driving us as government to go further but driving yourselves to achieve more in terms of economic integration and the opportunities that that provides.

Australia and New Zealand are exemplars of economic leadership and innovation. As we are in so many areas, let us be proud of it and through initiative like this forum through business changing lives like we saw on the stage before let us be proud to share it with the world as well.

Thanks so much for the chance to speak here tonight.

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