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The G20 2014 agenda: address to Commonwealth Foreign Ministers, Sri Lanka
Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop
The G20 2014 Agenda
Address to Commonwealth Foreign Ministers
Colombo, Sri Lanka
14 November 2013
Thank you for the introduction and for hosting lunch and also the Foreign Ministers' segment of CHOGM. I
do want to pay tribute to Sri Lanka for hosting CHOGM this year.
We all know, in this room, the tragic consequences of the civil war over three decades and I think it is a
testament to you and your Government that four years from the end of the civil war you are able to host an
international event of the status of CHOGM.
We know that things are not perfect here. We know that there is work to do, but I am grateful for having the
opportunity earlier this year - before I was the Minister for Foreign Affairs, when I was in Opposition - I am
very grateful for having the opportunity to travel through Sri Lanka, to go to the North, to observe for myself
and to draw my own conclusions about what I saw and I hope that others will continue to engage with Sri
I see no point in isolating one of our member countries and I do, as I say, pay credit to you for what has
been achieved. There is a long way ahead, and I think that you have done extremely well.
Now we are all members of so many organisations and fora - and in the two months since I have been
Foreign Minister I suspect I have been home on about one or two occasions because this seems to be the
summit end of the calendar year - and as we are members of so many of these organisations, I think it's
timely that we should remind ourselves of why we are members of the Commonwealth and treasure our
membership of this extraordinary organisation.
It makes such a contribution to what the Secretary-General has called "the great global good" and I call it
an extraordinary organisation because, let's face it we are more than just a group of friends - although I feel
very much amongst friends - and it's more than just our economic interests at heart.
It's through our commitment to values that we are all members of the Commonwealth and our commitment
to democracy and to diversity and to collaboration and understanding is a very powerful thread. Sir Robert
Menzies, who was Australia's longest serving Prime Minister, said shortly after the London Declaration 64
years ago, that there was an "inner feeling" about being a member of the Commonwealth. I hope that we all
still maintain that "inner feeling" throughout the next couple of days and beyond.
When you think about it - 54 countries, small islands, large countries, Australia an island continent,
spanning five continents, we touch on three oceans - we are an extraordinary organisation. And I think it's
always worth reminding ourselves of the words of Nelson Mandela, when he became President after a
most disturbing period in South Africa's history, when he said that the Commonwealth makes the world
safe for diversity and it certainly does have an influence and its achievements can have a profound impact
around the world.
Next year Australia is hosting the G20 meeting in Brisbane in 2014 and we take over the Presidency of the
G20 on the first of December this year and I hope that through our presidency we will be able to ensure
that the views of our Commonwealth members can be made known to the G20.
Economic reform is obviously a foundation of the G20 agenda, born as it was out of a finance ministers
meeting, and economic reform is an essential element to the prosperity of all of the nations represented in
this room and globally.
Global growth is still in low gear, the IMF has now downgraded the global forecast for the seventh time in
two years, so we have challenges ahead of us. The G20 as an organisation combines some of the largest
economies and some of the emerging economies, but I think it is important to note that five of the G20 are
in fact members of the Commonwealth - Australia, Canada, India, South Africa and the United Kingdom.
At the meeting in St Petersburg, the G20 leaders resolved that the focus should be on lifting economic
growth, in the face of sluggish global growth, and creating jobs. They were the overarching priorities and
Australia has certainly adopted those priorities for the G20 in 2014.
Around the world we can see that monetary and fiscal policy has limitations, and in some areas has
reached its limits. What nations need to do now is get their private sectors activated to drive growth and
employment and I believe that the G20 has responsibility to come up with practical ways to, for example,
generate investment - global investment - particularly in productive infrastructure, and I'm hoping that the
G20 agenda will be able to address some of the obstacles to investment, the unnecessary regulation and
In Australia the new government has resolved to take out of the economy a billion dollars' worth of red tape
each and every year. We have set aside several days in the year in the Parliament to just be repeal days
when we do nothing other than repeal legislation. I think that we will be able to sell tickets to the business
community, they are so excited by that prospect.
We also hope that the G20 can find ways to better leverage funds in international institutions to activate
additional capital from the private sector for global investment.
Given the self-evident and very strong link between trade and economic growth, we hope that trade reform
will be also an important part of the agenda. And also noting that in the absence of global multilateral trade
liberalisation, many parts of the world are building networks of bilateral and mutual free trade agreements.
We hope that with that kind of momentum we will effectively end up with a multilateral outcome and
hopefully the WTO can find its way to get the global trade liberalisation agenda back on track and I think
the G20 has a role to play there.
We also want to focus on strengthening the international financial sector - reforming the IMF and reforming
the Financial Stability Board have been matters that have been addressed or have been considered in the
past but I think that we really need to ensure that these institutions reflect the realities of the 21st century.
Another area of focus we suggest will be infrastructure. The unlocking of growth in developing countries in
many instances comes down to infrastructure. The OECD has estimated that something like two trillion
dollars a year is required to meet global infrastructure needs and so we are looking at ways where public
and private funding can flow into international investments.
Another area that we hope to focus upon is in taxation, reforming taxation systems. It's a fact that some
developing countries lose more revenue in tax evasion than they receive in foreign aid and we certainly
want to support stronger tax administration and tax reform where necessary and appropriate.
And a third priority - I'm not making everything a priority because if everything is a priority nothing is a
priority - access to financial services is also something that we believe is very important. It's fundamental to
developing countries, it's fundamental to small and medium enterprises and indeed in women's economic
empowerment access to financial services is so important.
One thing that we are very keen to ensure occurs is consultation with as many countries as we are able to
reach, so that in our outreach program in the lead up to Brisbane in 2014 we hope to be extensive and we
are certainly looking to work with the Commonwealth and individual members of the Commonwealth to get
We have a dedicated G20 representative, Daniel Sloper, and he is more than happy to meet with you, meet
with your officials and receive your feedback and ideas. We also obviously have our Sherpa but Daniel is
our representative to take feedback from you.
So by the time we get to November of 2015, we hope that our agenda is clear, that it is not too crowded,
that we are able to achieve outcomes that are of global benefit. We also want to ensure that the leaders of
the G20 have sufficient opportunity to talk amongst themselves, at retreat, as a group of 19 leaders and the
EU, so that they can broaden the agenda without it becoming unwieldy.
I think the challenge for organisations like the G20 is to continually be relevant and in order for them to be
continually relevant we need the leaders of the countries to be continually committed to attending and
being there. So Australia is determined to make sure that the agenda is vibrant enough to attract the
energy of the leaders of the G20 that will be required to ensure that it continues to be a force for good in
We would welcome your feedback and look forward to interacting with you over the days ahead. My Prime
Minister will be here tomorrow evening and I certainly extend to you the invitation to your leaders to ensure
that they engage with Prime Minister Abbott should there be any specific issues that your countries feel
should be raised.
So we are honoured to have the role as President of the G20, or chair of the G20, in 2014 and we hope
that through our chairmanship the G20 can continue to be focused, relevant and achieve positive outcomes
in the areas of economic growth, infrastructure, employment, financial and tax reforms.
So thank you very much for your attention and I am happy to answer any questions.
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