Speech – The Hon Scott Morrison MP, Prime Minister of Australia – Launch of the Australia UAE Business Council

25 November 2020


Well thank you very much Christopher, and my apologies to all of those who are assembled there, we have had a very lengthy Cabinet meeting today and I’ve literally just walked out of that and we’ve just concluded there. And I thank you for your patience, as we prepare for this last sitting fortnight there, as Christopher will well recall, there is a lot of business to get through at this end of the year and in preparations for those last sitting, that next sitting fortnight which begins next week there are some very urgent issues we had to attend to and there’s no shortage of things going on in our world today. Which you will all be as familiar with as I am.

So good evening, everyone and I’m really delighted to be with you, even though it is virtually.

I wish I could have been there with you personally, that was my original intention when my good friend Christopher invited me to be part of this, I, it was straight away I think Christopher, I agreed to do it because I understand the importance of this relationship and I’m very pleased to be able to be here.

Even if it is from, as we call it, ISO, ISO has become known this year as the Australian dictionary word of the year apparently. And so I think that says quite a lot about 2020 that such a word would define a whole year here in Australia.

Can I begin by acknowledging the traditional owners on the land where I’m meeting tonight, where I am in Canberra are the Ngunnawal people, and pay my respects to their elders past, present and emerging.

Can I also acknowledge as is my custom any members of the Australian defence force personnel or indeed veterans importantly who have joined us today, as Christopher just said, there are many who have served in our defence forces in the Emirates, and just simply say to them, particularly at this time, particularly at this time, thank you on behalf of a grateful nation for your outstanding service for our country.  

Can I of course acknowledge your co-chairs His Excellency Badr Al-Olama, and of course, someone who I know would love to be known as His Excellency, Christopher Pyne, but we’ll just know him as the Honourable Christopher Pyne, and indeed he is, who together are the driving force behind this new Australia UAE Business Council.

I also recognise the presence of His Excellency Abdullarh Al Subousi – the UAE Ambassador to Australia.

There’s a saying that, when trouble strikes, you find out who your true friends really are. Christopher and I know that very well. And trouble has certainly struck this year, and through it all, the United Arab Emirates has shown itself to be a true friend of Australia.

When the bushfires were raging over the Black Summer, we were so grateful for the UAE’s support.

A message of solidarity was projected onto the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

And there was practical support as well, even a fundraising appeal, fittingly called ‘mates help mates’.

All making a difference. But the message it sent, even more special.

Of course, this year hasn’t got any easier. COVID-19 has been a calamity for the world, a global health crisis, and a global economic crisis. I described COVID-19 as being akin to an economic meteor hitting the global economy.

Yet in these most trying of times, Australia and the UAE have responded well.

We’ve successfully limited the spread of the virus, and we have strengthened our economies to respond and absorb that shock. To cushion the blow.

Still, the human and economic toll has been severe, and the way back will be hard. So we do need to keep working together, more closely than we ever have before. And I know the Australia-UAE Business Council will play a central role in this collaboration and partnership.

This is the first-ever business council between our nations, it’s hard to believe really given the strength of relationship and the commerce that occurs. And it’s very timely.

Of course, Australia and the UAE already have a strong economic relationship that’s not news. And we do so in part, because we get each other, we understand each other, and importantly we trust each other.

We believe in open markets and the need to provide conditions for business to succeed. We believe in a business-led recovery of our economies both here in Australia and in the UAE, and around the world.

We share a spirit of optimism and hope, and an enviable capacity for innovation.

And we know that trade is key to our future prosperity.

None of us gets rich selling things to ourselves. One in five Australian jobs relies on trade, and the UAE is our largest Middle East trading partner.

Our businesses export high-quality goods and services, supporting the Emirates’ most prized industries.

You sell premium cuts of Australian meat in your fine hotels and restaurants. Which is what’s demanded by your guests.

Our construction experts helped create the wondrous theme parks of Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

And remarkable Australian technology keeps the windows of the towering Burj Khalifa clean and shiny.

Today, there are over 350 Australian companies operating in the UAE, everything from steel trading to banking, freight services, marine manufacturing, and many more.

Likewise, we welcome Emirati investment in Australia.

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority — one of the largest sovereign wealth funds in the world, has invested in our ports, our motorways and our energy grids.

And other UAE-based firms have entered our agribusiness, tourism, health and aged care sectors.

Just last month, two Abu Dhabi-based companies, Masdar and Tribe, signed up to a new energy‑from‑waste project at the Maryvale paper mill in Victoria.

The project will divert some 325,000 tonnes of waste from landfill and reuse it to generate steam and electricity. How good’s that?

And it’s expected to create 500 jobs. Even better.

These examples represent just the beginning of our partnership.

Next year is the Golden Jubilee of the UAE a great moment in history with World Expo coming to Dubai.

Like so much, it has been impacted by COVID. But I’m sure it can be a road marker for the world, a marker of hope in the road to recovery.

I’m pleased that Australian businesses are making major contributions to the Expo itself.

I believe one of the opportunities before us is in agribusiness.

We share similar climates, so we can learn from each other about managing water scarcity and growing food sustainably. Sharing the latest innovations in aquaculture, urban farming and hydroponics.

We can also do more when it comes to the digital economy, the real gamechanger. COVID accelerated everything, with artificial intelligence, fintech, cloud computing and e-commerce all creating huge opportunities.

As technologically-advanced economies, we’re well-placed to collaborate here.

We are also seeing shared opportunities in education, with the University of Wollongong, Murdoch University and Curtin University already setting up campuses in Dubai.

But again, we can do so much more.

I want our educational institutions to give young Emiratis, and students across the Gulf region, opportunities to gain experience in the Indo-Pacific region. A region which will define the world in the decades ahead.

And our educational institutions can help provide a steady stream of trained professionals for the UAE’s thriving knowledge-based economy.

Aerospace, a relatively new industry for Australia and the UAE, is another area of massive potential.

Our nations have bold ambitions, and we’re committed to working together to achieve them.

Early last year, the Australian Space Agency signed an agreement with its Emirati counterpart, which is driving cooperation in communications, robotics, technology and space medicine.

We are like-minded partners as we look to grow our national space economies.

Australia has a goal to triple the size of our space sector by 2030, and partnership with the UAE will be important for us to achieve this. 

And the UAE is a shining example for Australia, breaking new ground globally, having launched a mission to Mars in July, and sending its first astronaut into space in September.

These are truly historic achievements.

And it’s not just me who’s excited about it as the Prime Minister, as the National Space Agency – the Australian Space Agency is based in Adelaide, in Christopher’s home city. And, Premier Marshall, you will not find a more excitable person, and passionate person when it comes to the development of the space industry in Australia than Premier Marshall. Only Trekkies I think have a more enthusiastic passion for space than Premier Marshall, he has really taken this up in a big way. And he’s a huge part of the partnership which is making our space agency work.

Australia is working hard to make sure our businesses can take advantage of all these opportunities.

And we are working to eliminate the barriers.

We’re deregulating cross-border exchange with a Simplified Trade System reform agenda.

We want to get rid of the unnecessary costs that are holding back our 56,000 exporters, and 387,000 importers, many of which are doing business with the UAE and the wider Gulf region.

As part of our JobMaker Plan, we’re starting a comprehensive overhaul of trade-related regulations.

We’re also starting work on a Digital Verification Platform, to move towards paperless trade internationally, and, in the longer term, a Trade Single Window to enable importers and exporters to tick off any regulatory requirements in just one go.

COVID-19 has played havoc with international freight routes.

So we’ve also taken steps to help our agricultural and fisheries exporters move their produce into key overseas markets.

The Budget which we handed down last month provided more than $317 million to extend the temporary International Freight Assistance Mechanism until the middle of next year.

This is helping to restore global supply chains and keep international freight routes and flights operating.

I’m pleased that Emirates and Etihad are both supporting this initiative, helping to send fresh Australian produce,  like meat, seafood, fruit and vegetables, to Emirati consumers.

Now in conclusion, of course, we’ve still got a lot to do to get through all of this.

But when trouble strikes, mates help mates, as UAE has demonstrated to Australia over the course of this year. And so many others. 

That’s what we’ve done this year, and now is the time to take our partnership to the next level.

I believe our relationship is full of possibility, and our people and businesses are eager to do the best they can, and make the most of it.

I’m very confident that the Australia-UAE Business Council will open doors in the years ahead and I’m very pleased to be with you to launch this new great venture, and I congratulate all of you for being a part of it as we’ve kicked it off today. And look forward to its great success in the future.

Thank you very much for your kind attention.

Congratulations on this new venture.