Address by Minister Baird to the Australia-Canada Economic Leadership Forum

February 25, 2014 - Melbourne, Australia

Check Against Delivery

I am delighted to join you tonight, once again among such an impressive gathering of friends in such an impressive museum.

I say “once again” because I had the great pleasure of speaking to you when you last gathered in Toronto in 2012, among the dinosaurs and totem poles in the Royal Ontario Museum.

But there are a couple of firsts for me this evening:

It’s the first time I’ve had the chance to share a podium with my new colleague and friend, Julie Bishop.

Julie, I’m very glad that your parliamentary colleagues gave you leave from your duties in your House to join us here this evening.

As a former “manager of government business,” as you say in Australia, I know that no parliamentarian can take their democratic responsibilities lightly.

This is also my first visit to Melbourne. What are my first impressions?

Well, it is a multicultural hub of commerce and creativity. And its core of tall buildings sits beside a calm body of water. So it reminds me a lot of Toronto—just with a little less snow.

My visit is also the first bilateral visit to Australia by a Canadian foreign minister in a long time.

Canadian and Australian foreign ministers do meet all the time in other countries, for other events.

Julie and I have already met twice since last September: first in New York at the UN, and then at the last APEC conference.

But we do not make a habit of visiting each other’s countries to talk frankly about the state of the world. And we’ve both agreed we need to change that.

This sense of familiarity yet distance was noted by the first Canadian politician to visit Australia, Sir Mackenzie Bowell, a Conservative from Ontario, like me, and Canada’s first minister of trade and commerce.

He first visited here in 1893, to open trade routes between Canada and Australia.

He left frustrated. When he returned to Canada, he lamented that although our countries shared a similar heritage, it would be difficult to build a shared future of prosperity.

Looking around this room tonight, in 2014, we’ve clearly come a long way since then.

It’s not just a platitude to say that our countries are bound together more closely than ever before. Here’s why.

First, we live in the post-9/11 world where terrorism and fanaticism threaten security in every democratic country.

Trusting relationships between democracies are even more important in today’s world. Healthy democracies like ours rely on each other now more than ever for our security.

Second, we live in a world of emerging powers. New powers, including some of your regional neighbours, want a stronger voice in world affairs. Managing these changes is a challenge for nations like ours.

We have a shared interest in a stable, rules-based international order. And this is something we cannot maintain unilaterally.

Australia has engaged with these emerging powers and so has Canada. But we need to work more closely with those countries that think like us and that share our deepest values.

Canada and Australia need each other in this new world more than we sometimes realize.

The third thing that is tying us together is our membership in a new international club charged with managing the complexities of this new world order: the G-20.

You are hosting the G-20 Summit this year. Canada did so in 2010.

Finding success in the G-20 is a task that is essential to the prosperity of the global economy. It is a task that other members of the G-20 look to capable and respected middle powers like Australia and Canada to take the lead on.

Here again, we matter to each other internationally more than ever before.

Finally, there is a new trend that has brought so many of you together in this forum. Our two economies are much more heavily invested in each other’s economic success than we used to be.

Since 1995, Canada’s overall foreign investment in Asia Pacific has grown by 400 percent, which is impressive. But over the same period, Canadian investment has grown in Australia by almost 800 percent, which is phenomenal.

Australia is by far the biggest destination for Canadian foreign direct investment in Asia Pacific.

And Australians have not been slow to invest in Canada. Canada has recently become one of the largest overseas destinations for Australian direct investment.

Our businesses find it easier to compete globally by investing in each other’s economies.

That’s because they have confidence in the resilience of our economies, in our governments’ commitment to market-driven growth strategies and in our societies’ deep commitment to the rule of law as the foundation for prosperity.

I know both of our governments are bringing a greater emphasis to economic and commercial dimensions in our diplomacy.

In Canada, we have brought trade, development and foreign affairs into one department and committed to a Global Markets Action Plan—in which the Trans-Pacific Partnership is a central plank.

And I think the fact that both of us foreign ministers are here this evening is evidence of our commitment to promoting our economies.

So I’ve set out why our countries are working together more closely.

Now let me take a few minutes to outline what our countries can work toward together, diplomatically, in the coming year.

Canada has always been a Pacific nation. We have been an ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] Dialogue Partner since 1977 and a member of the ASEAN Regional Forum since its creation. So we will work more closely to reinforce the institutions of Asia-Pacific regional security.

We look forward to joining Australia in the East Asia Summit as soon as it is ready to accept new members. Making these institutions successful at promoting genuine security is slow work, but it is critical to the continued economic success of this region and the world.

Both Canada and Australia strongly support emerging democracies.

The Government of Burma has taken promising steps down that road. Canada accredited our first resident ambassador to Burma last year, and we would like to work more closely with Australia to support the fledgling institutions of democracy there.

Julie, you and I share a passion for the defence of human rights and in particular the rights of young women and girls.

I have repeatedly spoken out against the brutality of early and forced marriage. You have a long-standing commitment to encourage women’s political empowerment—and you personally are a role model for what young women leaders can aspire to.

We should work together this year to promote practical, visible initiatives that will make a difference for the most vulnerable women and girls in the world.

Freedom of religion is also a core human right. When religious freedom and pluralism are fostered, the soil is fertile for the growth of strong democratic institutions and long-term prosperity.

Australia’s neighbourhood is a region that has nurtured enormous religious diversity. Canadians and Australians might work together to promote better understanding among faiths and to ensure that the dignity of the human being is respected.

Finally, as ambitious as our global goals are, neither of us can afford to have diplomatic missions everywhere we would like to be.

Under the Canada-Australia consular sharing agreement, you look after travelling Canadians in 18 of your missions where Canada is not represented.

And we do the same for Australians in 16 countries where Australia is not present. I think we can build creatively and intelligently on this habit of cooperation to support each other’s interests in the field.

This cooperation is evidence, and a practical example, of our warm and productive relationship.

Canada and Australia—and the world we live in—have come a very long way from Sir Mackenzie Bowell’s pessimism in 1893.

Our shared future prosperity depends now more than ever on making maximum use of everything that our great nations have in common.

This forum’s success is testimony to the fact that Canadians and Australians see each other as natural allies.

Now it is our job to make the most of that.

Thank you.