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Opening of Australian stand at CeBIT'95, Hanover, 8 March 1995: transcript


It is a great honour for Australia to be the partner country at this, the largest fair of its kind in the world. This is really the place where countries get to show their form in all of the innovative areas of electronics, data processing and information technology. Australia, of course, has been - like many developed countries, particularly with Anglo-Saxon antecedents - has always had a deep, pure research and development base. I suppose if we have had a weakness, we haven't had the population to apply it, but now that we have opened the Australian economy up - now that we have engaged the rest of the world - all sorts of innovative impulses and instincts come to the fore, and we find ourselves in a position to be able to exhibit and compete at an exhibition such as this. Ten years ago, of course, we would have been lucky to have had 2 or 3 companies here. Now, we have the better part of 150 - 200 companies with a great range of products - many of which are leading edge products at the cutting edge of technology. And I think all this underpins the fact that Australia now is an innovative, high technology country, and because it has been through a profound economic change, it is able to engage the rest of the world, and to regard the world market as its market place.

This, of course, is most especially true in the Asia-Pacific, but it is also true in that place where high technology has always been in competition - and that is, of course, in Europe. So, making it in IT and communications technology means not just making it in new mass markets, but making it in the sophisticated, intelligent markets of Europe. So, this is a far cry from the normal understanding of Australia, which is a producer of raw materials, bulk traded commodities - such as iron ore and coking coal, and wheat and wool - all these things, of course, we do well - and if you have a woollen suit on, chances are that it came from Australia. And we do these traditional things, and I think - and I know - we do them well. But, since we started reducing our protection, we have seen a tremendous improvement in manufacturing production. We have seen a trebling of manufactured exports, and now the fastest growing component of our exports is elaborately transformed manufacturing of the very kind of things that you will see exhibited on the Australian stand here.

We are very grateful to CeBIT, and very honoured, to be the partner country. This is a singular honour, and one that I know Australia has taken very seriously, and hence the effort - which I think we have all made - in making this CeBIT exhibition as the partner country a serious and an ambitious one. I am particularly pleased, 'though, that CeBIT happens to be in Hanover, in Germany, where Australia and Germany are again on the cusp of a new relationship after the reconstruction of Germany - the reunification of Germany. Germany is now turning its attention to the Asia-Pacific, to these areas of larger markets, at a time when Australia has actually made very great strides in the Asia-Pacific - where 75% of our exports already go. We think we can be a great partner country of Germany in the Asia-Pacific. And I was delighted yesterday in my discussions with the Chancellor, and singularly in the light of the day, to have Economics Minister Rexrodt with us talking about the possibilities of cooperation and collaboration between Australia and Germany - not simply in Europe, but also in the Asia-Pacific, with Australia as a base for a launching pad for German enterprise in the Asia-Pacific area. I think we also want to see more of the Australia- German relationship - we have $2.5 billion invested in Germany, which is a reasonably modest amount considering the sorts of sums that Australians invest in other parts of Europe. For instance, we have $20 billion invested in Britain - and I think it is important that we understand that in a market of 80 million people, with a growth potential like Germany, that there are great prospects for Australians and Australian business in the German economy, and that we should be doing more here. And, likewise, we should see more German investment in Australia. This is starting to come, but there is no doubt that the CeBIT exhibition will at least awaken German interest in the fact that Australia is not simply a land of beaches and tourism and wool and iron ore and large open cut mines and the rest, but in fact is a high technology country with a high research and development base, underpinned by an education system which has no equal in the Asia-Pacific - and is, in fact, the equal of most developed countries around the world. I think that as that understanding takes place, a more natural relationship will occur.

So, could I conclude on these points - I would like to take this opportunity to say again how honoured we are at being invited here, I would like to thank again Dr Fisher for his visit to Australia in seeking to increase the interest of the Australian Government in this. I was delighted to receive him, and delighted to see him here today. I was delighted to meet members of the Government here yesterday - most especially, of course, the Premier, and delighted with his support of our exhibition, and our partner country status here at CeBIT. But most particularly, the Federal Government and Minister Rexrodt's commitment in coming along to this exhibition. Could I perhaps wind up by thanking the exhibitors for their interest in coming and exhibiting, to Austrade - a body which probably has no parallels around the world, in terms of the singular promotion of a country and a country's interest, in organising this, and to all of the organisers. To Bob Johnson, the Chairman of Austrade, a sincere thank you, and with those few words, I invite Minister Rexrodt to complement my remarks, and again, thank him for being here, and for his interest, and I am very pleased to declare this - the Australian Exhibition of CeBIT - to be officially open. Thank you.