On Monday morning Grant Thornton hosted a breakfast in Perth with 200 guests who had the unique opportunity to reflect with the Hon. Julie Bishop in what she described as her final speech as Minister for Foreign Affairs. With her vast knowledge and years of experience, Julie emphasised the importance of our geographical location and numerous resources to take advantage of new economic opportunities.
We are living in an increasingly contested environment where the norms of behaviour are becoming more unpredictable. We only have to look around us to see how advances in technology have changed the way we work, live and engage. To successfully grow in this rapidly changing environment, Julie discussed a framework highlighting Australia’s values and interests for which we can develop our foreign policy and respond to challenges and opportunities that we pursue with logic. As stated by the Minister, “you don’t get rich selling to yourself”. This emphasised the importance of Australia being a trusted and reliable trading partner.
The Minister shared with us the five key priorities of Australia’s foreign policy:
- Our focus should be on creating new opportunities with the Indo-Pacific region, as this is where our future lies. The Minister described our location as “exquisitely positioned” and “the most dynamic economic region in the world”.
- Develop and enter into free trade agreements with significant trading partners and developing nations to achieve what the Minister described as “a level playing field”. This will open up growth opportunities that we must not take for granted.
- Continue to uphold the International Rules Based Order in its entirety, which has lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty since World War II. This Order underpins how nations work with each other in order to promote international peace and prosperity.
- In an increasingly volatile time, national security is of utmost importance. Our focus should be directed to building up a defence capability and maintaining our alliance with the United States.
- “Nations of the Pacific are our family”. The Minister addressed the criticism and false logic associated with Foreign Aid and emphasised how important it is to support our neighbours. Although Foreign Aid makes up a minor percentage of the national budget, for every AUD$1 invested, we receive AUD$7 back in export income, illustrating the importance of helping our neighbours as well as the benefits that can arise.
A short Q&A followed the Minister’s reflections on foreign policy where she welcomed any question whether it related to global issues or the recent political events of the past week. When asked her opinion of why Australia has had 7 Prime Ministers in the last 12 years, the Minister pinpointed the desire for immediacy as the underlying issue. The Minister explained that people are looking for one leader to respond to all problems and grievances faced by every group. People are seeking quick fixes without consideration for long term strategies, and this has placed pressure on the current government to respond with band-aid solutions that may not address the root cause of problems. It was interesting to hear the Minister’s perspective on this current and on-going issue that all Australians are impacted by.
It was clear that the Minister has an extremely positive outlook on the future of Australia as a trading nation. As the 13th largest economy with the 53rd largest population, Australia has shown the tenacity and drive to continue to achieve sustainable economic growth, which to date has been uninterrupted for 22 years. We are a country blessed with numerous resources required by growing economies and therefore our challenge going forward is to ensure more people benefit from the prosperous situation Australia is in.
The morning concluded with a standing ovation from all attendees and this illustrated the appreciation and respect for all Julie has done for both Western Australia and our country during her impressive and notable career.
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