Address to Israel Business Lunch

15 Dec 2015 Speech

Keynote address to the

Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce (AICC)

Business Lunch

1.00pm (IST), Tuesday 15 December 2015


Introductory remarks

Thank you for that introduction, and thank you to the Australia–Israel Chamber of Commerce for hosting me here today.

I’m delighted to be here. And may I also offer you my sincere thanks for the hospitality that’s been shown to us during this visit.

This is my seventh visit to Israel. My first was in 1994 as a 26 year old when I came with the Australian Union of Jewish Students.

And last year I had the privielge of leading the Australian Delegation of the Australia Israel United Kingdom Leadership Dialogue and have been a member of that delegation at each of its meetings.

Through those times, and through my many connections to supporters of Israel in Australia, I have developed great affection and admiration for this country and your ideals. I have learned a great deal about how you work, live and innovate.

This visit continues that learning curve and helps forge, I trust, even deeper links between our nations. For me, it has already proved to be highly productive in both senses.

I’ve had valuable discussions with many people about issues of direct concern to my portfolio.

I have spoken with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. I’ve had discussions with Chief Scientist Avi Hasson, whom I had the opportunity to meet last month during his visit to Australia.

We discussed many issues in our bilateral relationship, from economic matters to the potential for a future treaty on science and technology cooperation.

We also discussed the finalisation of an Industrial Research and Development Treaty as soon as possible. What this signifies is a determination of Australia and Israel to collaborate on innovation.

The Chief Scientist and I have signed a declaration of collaboration on innovation and science that reflects this deep and ongoing commitment.

These discussions provided insights for my subsequent talks at Hebrew University and my meetings with venture capital entrepreneurs and start-up experts.

These and other engagements that are scheduled before I leave Israel are a great opportunity to share ideas about matters high on Australia’s national agenda.

Issues of science and industry collaboration.

Of research and development.

Of commercialisation of research.

And of innovation and entreprenership.

We recognise Israel as a nation with one of the world’s highest concentrations of these attributes.

We have much to learn from you. I have no doubt this will continue to be a key theme in Australia–Israel bilateral relations in the years ahead.

Australia–Israel relationship

Our recent exchange of visits are invaluable. Not least because they reaffirm Australia's longstanding friendship with Israel.

Our two countries enjoy a strong and deep relationship grounded in our commitment to freedom, democracy and the rule of law.

Our shared history goes back to Israel’s establishment. It goes to the settlement of tens of thousands of Jewish refugees and Holocaust surviors in Australia.

Today, Australia has a strong and vibrant Jewish community. Its members make an enormous contribution to Australian society.

This has been instrumental in promoting, sustaining and strengthening the bonds of friendship between our countries.

Our diplomatic relations go back all the way to 1949.

Our strong people-to-people links do the same.

But our most important bond is our bond of shared values. Our mutual and historic commitment to liberal democarcy, respect for human life and freedom from opression.

Israel and Australia have stood shoulder to shoulder through thick and thin.

The Government of which I am a member is commited to this relationship – now and forever.

And these shared values have led to collaborations between our two countries.

I'm pleased to report that our research collaborations between our world-class universities have intensified.

And, of course, business-to-business contacts continue to grow.

Australia has a healthy commercial relationship with Israel. You are an important export market for Australia’s energy and agricultural commodities.

There is much scope for us to build on that.

There is potential, for example, for Australia to export its technical expertise in exploration—particularly in the oil and gas sector, a relatively new industry for Israel but one where Australia is very strong.

By the same token, the potential for Australian companies to take advantage of Israel’s knowledge-based, technologically advanced economy is enormous.

This is especially the case in the areas of biotechnology, in information and communication technology, and in education and training.

We in Australia have watched Israel’s rise from an economy primarily based on agriculture and a traditional manufacturing sector, to a technologically advanced nation. It has been nothing short of meteoric.

Israel is now a hub of innovation.

You have a flourishing ICT-based economy.

It is shaped by a sophisticated system of major global investors, start-ups and universities engaged in industry research.

So as an innovation pacesetter, you have valuable lessons for the rest of us.

We want to know more about how you achieved this remarkable rate of success in commercialising innovation.

How you routinely turn bright research ideas into viable commercial outcomes.

How your industries, researchers and universities collaborate so successfully.

And what policy settings enabled a competitive and dynamic high-tech sector to evolve so spectacularly in this country.

That is why we are here. I have read the landmark book on this—Startup Nation and met Saul Singer to talk about it,but it’s even better to be here and meet the people that made, and continue to make it happen.

It’s why, under a new $US26 million Global Innovation Strategy, the Australian Government will be supporting Australian consortia of businesses and researchers looking to collaborate with Israel and other economies globally on research.

As part of this initiative Australia will establish five new landing pads for Australian entrepreneurs in other countries around our region and in innovation hot spots around the world.

Today I am delighted to announce that Australia, through Austrade, will enhance its engagement with Israel by establishing the first landing pad here in Tel Aviv to give Australian start-ups and entrepreneurs an edge in building innovation by working with Israel.

The landing pad will be a collaboration between the Australian and Israeli Governments—and Israeli venture capital networks, entrepreneurs, investors and researchers.

This new landing pad will help Australian entrepreneurs find their feet here, make local connections, and quickly link in to your vibrant startup and innovation ecosystem.

It will build on our support for Australian researchers and small-to-medium enterprises in developing projects with counterparts from Israel, as well as other innovative nations.

An economy in transition

I spoke about our shared history through migration, the settlement of Holocaust survivors, and the creation of Israel.

There’s something else we have in common: our industrial history.

Like Israel, Australia’s economy was once primarily agrarian. We rode on the sheep’s back.

While agriculture remained important when those days declined, and remains so today, manufacturing evolved to surpass agriculture.

The reign of manufacturing continued for decades, becoming the mainstay of the economy and supporting a large proportion of our nation’s jobs.

Manufacturing remains important to the Australian economy and its innovation system.

In 2013–14, manufacturing businesses contributed $US3.5 billion to the nation’s spending on research and development, the largest contribution of all industries.

The sector still employs around 900,000 people.

Australia continues to have a strong economy—one of the best in the OECD—as we approach our 22nd consecutive year of economic growth.

But it faces an increasingly challenging global environment.

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