Speech at the Australia India Youth Dialogue, Sydney

Release Date: 
27 January 2015
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It's great to see so many of the best and brightest minds – the future of our nations – here to strengthen the relationship between our two great countries.

Initiatives like the Australia India Youth dialogue are crucial to our story. Governments can sign Free Trade Agreements and signal enhanced cooperation but it is people who truly link nations.

You are the future leaders of Asia's business, civil and public sectors.

You are the links that Australia and India need to maintain the friendship, and to make the most of joint government initiatives.

The experience you gain at this meeting will be invaluable. Hopefully, it will encourage and inspire you towards your goals.

My aim tonight is to direct your interest to the goals that are important to India and to Australia; to outline the tremendous opportunities you have as a result of the wave of goodwill and mutual interest that we enjoy.

First, a little context from the Australian perspective.

There are three categories of countries that are particularly important to Australia – our neighbours, our major trading partners and our important strategic partners.

India falls into all three categories.

India and Australia have a relationship built on a commitment to democracy, the rule of law and a shared history.

We fought together at Gallipoli—that campaign that forged our nation. We were brothers in arms at the siege of Tobruk.

People from India have landed on our shores since 1860 and, today, almost half a million people of Indian background call our country home.

Back in 1795, the first ship of cargo to exit New South Wales contained mahogany and cedar bound for India.

We even share the same national day and may I wish you a Happy Independence Day and Australia Day for yesterday.

Our friendship is honoured by growing trust and respect: symbolised by our Prime Ministers' respective visits – Prime Minister Abbott's in September as the first foreign leader to be hosted by Prime Minister Modi and Mr Modi's visit to Australia in November – the first by an Indian Prime Minister in 28 years.

The growing depth of the relationship can be seen in the recent signing of the Nuclear Cooperation Agreement; the return of the bronze Dancing Shiva from our National Gallery; our commitment to finalising a comprehensive bilateral trade agreement within 12 months; and a pilot programme for online business and visitors visas.

The glue which binds us is that great game of cricket. I am confident about the World Cup next month.

The economic context

The most dynamic part of the relationship though is economic.

The World Bank predicts that India will overtake China as the world's fastest growing economy in 2017.

It will be the principal source of energy demand from 2020.

The median age of India's young population is 27, with more than 300 million people due to enter the labour market over the next two decades.

India's burgeoning middle class will soon be one of the biggest consumers of goods and services in the world.

The goods and services that India wants are the goods and services that Australia produces: the higher quality produce we grow or manufacture generally; education services; professional expertise in law, accounting, banking, water management; and, of course, our resources.

This was witnessed first-hand by the 450 business and government leaders who accompanied our Trade and Investment Minister, Hon Andrew Robb, to India for Australian Business Week. We understand that this was the largest delegation ever to go to India.

All have come back genuinely excited by the vast opportunities that are available in India.

While two-way trade between Australia and India is around $15 billion a year, this is only a tenth of our trade with China, so there is huge untapped potential in the trade and investment relationship.

Government commitment

The economic relationship can be greatly enhanced if government leaders are willing to make it happen.

India's perspective on the trade and investment relationship mirrors our own and we have found a friend in Prime Minister Modi.

The Indian Government's slogan is "Come, Make in India" - a reflection of our own government's push to ensure that Australia is "open for business".

When Prime Minister Modi addressed our Parliament last year, I had a chance to briefly meet him. It was an honour to do so.

His speech on the floor of the chamber was heartfelt and profound and it left no-one in any doubt that India and Australia have much to offer each other.

He said that he sees 'Australia as a major partner in every area' of India's 'national priorities':

  • skills and education;
  • electricity in every household;
  • affordable healthcare for the most difficult diseases;
  • infrastructure;
  • energy—clean coal and gas, renewable energy or fuel for nuclear power;
  • cities that are smart, sustainable and liveable;
  • villages that offer opportunities;
  • agriculture that yields more and farms that are better connected to markets; and
  • practices and technology that save water.

These are India's priorities and Australia's opportunities.

Make no mistake though: don't underestimate a country that can launch a Mars orbiter cheaper than ever before.

India can and will fulfil Prime Minister Modi's visionary list without us. It's just that they would prefer to do it with us.

Collaboration between our governments at the central and state levels is at an all-time high.

In 2014, cooperation agreements between the Australian and Indian Governments were signed in tourism, security, social security, arts and culture, and education.

Most recently, you may have also seen that New South Wales Premier Mike Baird signed a new agreement with the Indian state of Gujarat to strengthen cultural, trade and diplomatic relations.

During Mr Robb's visit for Australian Business Week, several key partnerships were formed:

  • Woodside with the Adani Group to supply LNG to India;
  • Wollongong University with Pandit Deendayal Petroleum University on mining excellence;
  • the National Australia Bank with the State Bank of India in finance cooperation;
  • the SAE Institute and Reliance Media to work together in the film sector; and
  • A revitalised CEO Forum, which will inform our respective governments on economic policy development, was also announced. Sam Walsh the CEO of Rio Tinto and Gautam Adani of the Adani Group will be co- chairs.

Australia is also helping to address India's need for food security through Australian expertise in areas such as fodder management and cold chain logistics.

Indian scientists are working with Australian scientists on diverse research topics like how to detect cancer non-invasively, genetic enhancements to chickpeas to protect against insect damage, trauma care after traffic accidents, and the physics of pulsar stars in the farthest reaches of space.

Most incredibly, if all goes to plan, an Indian company will this year begin Australia's largest every coal development and provide energy for 100 million Indians.

The economic relationship is advancing and in 12 months time, it will grow even further.

People-to-people relationships

Let me go back to where I started – the people-to-people relationships. Because it all starts here.

We are at a tremendous advantage with our personal relationships across our two great nations:

  • 450,000 people of Indian heritage call Australia home;
  • Indians are our largest source of skilled migrants; and
  • We have over 30,000 Indian students studying in Australia and from this year, 340 Australian students will receive scholarship and mobility grants to study in India under our New Colombo Plan.

I am so optimistic about India's future.  I am so optimistic about the deepening relationship between our two countries.

And with leaders like yourselves, forming relationships already, the prospects of each of our nations is very bright indeed.