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Australia and India - old friends, new partners: speech to the Indian Business Chambers Lunch, Delhi

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Thank you for your welcome. I am delighted to be here with you in Delhi today.

The people of Australia and India have long been friends.

My great predecessor, Prime Minister Ben Chifley, Australia’s Prime Minister at the end of and following the Second World War, was someone who was driven to work for the betterment of all people, not only in Australia but “anywhere we may give a helping hand”.

He led an Australian people who were friends to the newly free world - friends to the new nations of the global south.

So, naturally, he formed a working friendship with Prime Minister Singh’s great predecessor - Nehru.

They met more than once, Chifley cited Nehru in his speeches, and in correspondence with Chifley’s biographer Nehru wrote of his deep distress at Chifley’s untimely death in 1951.

Chifley’s admiration for Nehru was expressed in an interview for the Indian media which he gave only hours before his death.

Chifley said: Tell Nehru not to lose heart, but to carry on. India will still show the way to peace. In him not only you but the world has a great man.

Friends, as you were then, you remain today: a sign of hope to the world.

Not least in the global importance of your national success as a great democracy in Asia.

And as Australians were then, so we are now: as you take your rightful place in the affairs of the globe, you do so with the affection and respect of our people, your friends.

Of course, one manifestation of this friendship is our shared love for, and friendly rivalry in, cricket: that “Indian game accidentally discovered by the British” as the great Indian thinker Ashis Nandy described it.

At the start of this year it was my pleasure to host the Australian and Indian cricket teams at my Sydney residence.

The summer was a celebration of the game and of the ties it has created between our peoples.

And many Australians gathered for what could be their final sight of Sachin Tendulkar in Tests.

Sachin Tendulkar is almost as widely admired in Australia as he is here in his homeland.

So, as I announced yesterday, we are delighted that he has accepted an honour from the Australian People, Member of the Order of Australia.


Friends, in past decades, I believe the strong friendship between our peoples has not been matched by the strength of the connection between our Governments.

Above all because while shared sentiment was often strong, shared interests were too often weak.

This has been changing for some time.

In the 1980s and 1990s both Australia and India undertook economic reforms which turned our economies outwards to the world.

While we each followed our own respective economic paths, we sought the same goal of economic growth. Two facts tell the story of our efforts.

Twenty years on, India’s share of world output has almost doubled while this year, Australia reached 21 years of uninterrupted economic growth.

And although our economies have come from very different points, in going for growth, we have grown towards each other.

Now, in a new century - one I describe as an Asian Century - the case for a stronger, broader and deeper relationship between India and Australia is compelling.


The Asian Century is the setting for the great national opportunities and challenges each of us faces.

In this century, the tide is running to Asia.

Global economic and strategic weight is shifting eastwards towards our region, driven by the rapid modernisation of Asian nations, by economic dynamism and by population growth.

By 2025, four of the top 10 economies in the world will be in Asia.

Asia is becoming the world’s largest consumer market.

For Australia, we are in the right part of the world at the right time.

And our record of economic management reinforces this advantage.

As the Global Financial Crisis of 2008 created recession and mass unemployment in many advanced economies, Australia stood out as one of the few to maintain growth in employment and GDP.

The Australian economy has recently been confirmed as the twelfth largest in the world, up from fifteenth.

Our comparative advantages include our natural resources, strong institutions and diverse, highly skilled workforce.

Our status as a reliable supplier of energy, minerals, services and manufactured goods to our regional partners gives us an important role in Asia’s economic transformation.

India is itself a vast demonstration of the trends defining this century.

The proportion of India’s population living in poverty has fallen over the last two decades from almost a half to less than a third.

New and growing cities are housing new and growing industries.

India is home to an emerging middle class that will shape social change and global markets in the decades to come.

Across the board, India doubled per person income within a decade.

To put this into perspective, it took the United Kingdom over fifty years to double per person income when it industrialised in the nineteenth century.

That same Industrial Revolution reshaped the dynamics of economic growth, as technology eclipsed population in determining the power of nations.

Now, as Asia’s rapid advances see Asian nations returning to their historic place as a share of global GDP, the strategic importance of population size has also returned.

For a nation like yours, and for your friends, this is a great and a good thing.


This is the context for the growing partnership between Australia and India.

In a century of growth and change, our interests are closer than they have ever been.

But while the convergence of our interests creates the conditions for a new partnership, leadership from Governments remains essential.

This is why it was so important that when my predecessor Prime Minister Rudd visited India in November 2009, he and Prime Minister Singh issued an historic joint statement:

Agreement to upgrade relations between our two countries to the level of a Strategic Partnership.

This is a vital symbol - and it is the basis of very practical work.

We issued a Joint Declaration on Security Cooperation to ensure closer and more regular collaboration on security issues.

We agreed new programs for joint research and development in areas like clean energy, water efficiency and sustainable agriculture.

The annual meetings between our Foreign, Trade and Education ministers and important ministerial contact between Defence and Energy ministers are adding new vitality.

In the past year, another barrier to relations has been removed: Australia has opened the door for uranium sales to India.

We did this because, to quote Prime Minister Singh in another time and place, it is “an idea whose time had come”.

So I look forward to discussing the next steps for our peaceful nuclear co-operation when I meet with Prime Minister Singh today.

These discussions are much more than an opportunity for jobs and exports or even a step for energy security.

They demonstrate in the most practical way that the Strategic Partnership between India and Australia is founded on enduring shared interests.


In recent years our economic relationship has grown stronger.

Two-way trade has grown at 13 per cent per annum in the past five years.

Indian investment approvals in Australia grew last year alone to over $11 billion.

This is a one hundred fold increase from ten years ago.

Last year, Australia was India’s largest supplier of coal and wool.

Indians are the fastest growing group of new migrants to Australia.

And Australian universities and training providers are an invaluable source of education for Indian students, who are the second largest group of international students in our country.

But there are important gains for both our nations if we broaden these links.

The dramatic changes in Asia are creating new patterns of Indian growth.

Unlike comparable economies in the past, as India’s share of output from agriculture has fallen, it is the services share, rather than the industry or manufacturing share, which has risen.

This reflects not just the development of new information and communications technologies, but the integration of these services into global value chains.

The growth of knowledge and its application have never been more important.

This century is one of opportunity for Asia’s innovators - and that means opportunity for India and Australia.

India has a genius for opening up new markets and meeting people’s needs through “frugal innovation”.

Take TATA’s Swach a benchtop water filter.

The Swach is an innovation based on advanced knowledge, using the properties of nanoparticles of silver.

Yet it also uses rice husks, one of India’s most common waste products, runs without electricity or moving parts and costs about a tenth of comparable previous products.

In a nation where two million people die every year from drinking contaminated water, this is a lifesaving device.

And in a nation which makes and sells ideas, it is one of a thousand cases where your dynamic technology and service sectors are already contributing to the global knowledge economy.

Australia’s firms are globally recognised as businesses who deliver innovation with their partners.

From transport and logistics, to mining and environmental services, from medical research to food science education to financial services.

So the next stage of our partnership should focus on areas of collaboration which build on these respective strengths - and which encourage innovation and specialisation in our economies.

Witness the growth of “knowledge partnerships” between Australia and India: today 32 Australian universities take part in 380 active collaborations with 250 Indian institutions.

Ranging from academic co-operation and joint research to encouraging student and staff mobility and recognising course credits between institutions.

Indeed, it is just this work which brought me here when I last visited in India in 2009, as Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister.

A commitment to education, research and innovation should be at the heart of our economic and social ties - indeed our Australia India Strategic Research Fund is another important example of this.

We are also seeing the expansion of our partnership to other areas of growing interest.

This is why my discussions with Prime Minister Singh will cover proposals for new cooperation in areas such as water technology and energy security.

But while the work of our two Governments can develop this potential, it is businesses and people who actually realise it.

That is why leadership and collaboration among the business communities of India and Australia is vital to our partnership.

And why we are working so hard to encourage the development of business relationships, including through investment, partnership and joint ventures.

To make the most of all this broadening of economic ties, we must truly be makers and shapers of change.

Australia has changed, in determining to export uranium to India.

India is changing, through important economic reforms in areas like energy, aviation and retail.

Our work together on a truly liberalising Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement will change both of us.

We have already set a goal of $40 billion trade in 2015 - in other words, our trade could double by 2015.

Both our economies have felt the vast human benefits of change on our path to economic growth in the past two decades - great benefits lie ahead if we persist.


Economic and social progress also depends on security and stability through a time of rapid and far-reaching change.

We are partners in our region.

In principle - as open, democratic and pluralistic societies - we both seek a region which is stable and rules-based, outward-looking and inclusive, where all countries work together for peace and growth.

In practice - we see common security interests in what is increasingly described as the Indo-Pacific region.

We both want security of maritime routes.

And we both seek to build habits of cooperation and trust across our region, in particular through the East Asia Summit.

Next year, when Australia takes over from India as Chair of the Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation, we will continue to build on the work India has done to strengthen Indian Ocean cooperation.

We are committed to our cooperation in counter terrorism.

We each remain undaunted in the face of international terrorism and determined to defeat it.

Our defence and security interaction has been stepped up in recent years and we should look to increase them further.

In time this could include more regular and combined talks at ministerial level, and stronger co-operation between our Defence Forces, including full naval exercises.

We are regional partners - and we work together in the world.

So Australia argued strongly for the G20 to replace the G8 as the preeminent international economic forum.

When Australia hosts the G20 Summit in 2014, we plan to do that in close cooperation with India.

I welcome Prime Minister Singh’s leadership at the G20 in promoting human development and economic growth.

And India and Australia have pressed for reform of the IMF and World Bank so that they better represent today’s world.

Even when we do not immediately see eye to eye - when there are tough issues on the table, as at the Doha Round and in climate change negotiations - we continue our quest for common ground.


In all that we do to seize the opportunities of the Asian Century, the task for our two Governments is simply this:

To build a partnership just as productive and enduring as the friendship our peoples have forged.

For Australia, our goal is for a partnership with India which reflects your standing - along with the US, Japan, China, Indonesia and the Republic of Korea - as one of the handful of countries which matter most to Australia.

Australia’s future in Asia is firmly grounded in relationships of respect with Washington, Tokyo, Beijing, Jakarta, Seoul ... and Delhi.

We know India’s importance in the Asian Century.

You long ago “woke to life and freedom” today it is the world waking to the global role your freedom and life have made for you.

The economic transformation you have achieved is remarkable the assets you hold today are rich indeed.

A great democracy, a vibrant private sector and entrepreneurial culture, and a demographic dividend as you invest in the skills and knowledge of a creative people.

These are assets Australia and India share.

Assets well fitted to growth and prosperity in the Asian Century.

This is a moment in history for nations like ours.

A century when reformers and innovators, will flourish in Asia - this is a century for India and a century for Australia.

Thank you.