Thank you for your kind invitation to participate in the Chamber’s Meet the Minister Series.
For many years the Chamber has been at the forefront of promoting trade and investment between our countries.
So many businesses owe their success to this Chamber and the contacts, advice and insider knowledge it provides.
I‘d like to start by saying something that everyone here already knows very well.
It is something we hear often.
Nevertheless it is worth saying again – because it should never be taken for granted and it speaks to the very essence of the relationship between our nations.
And it is quite simply this:
Australia and the United States are the closest of friends, the closest of partners, the closest of allies.
But I’d go even further to say, we are family.
We share a history and a bond like few other nations. It is just over 100 years ago that Australian and US soldiers fought together for the first time at the Battle of Hamel in World War I.
And from that day, we have been there for each other, side by side, in every major conflict.
We are together today in Afghanistan and Iraq.
And we are joining you to protect shipping in the Straits of Hormuz.
This was confirmed when President Trump and Prime Minister Morrison met at the White House over the weekend.
Their discussions were wide ranging.
But I don’t mind admitting to being more than a little ‘chuffed’ that many of the issues the leaders discussed related directly to my portfolio.
In particular Australia’s participation in NASA’s Moon to Mars Mission. This announcement by the Prime Minister and myself to inject funds into Australian businesses offers boundless potential and opportunities for our science, research and business communities.
I will come back to this shortly. But I am looking forward to travelling to the US at the earliest opportunity to pursue these areas of partnership.
All this cooperation, the strength of our alliance and the rapport between our leaders, comes from the core beliefs we share.
Together, we believe in democracy and the rule of law; in freedom of expression and freedom of speech; and that all people are created equal and, regardless of religion, race or creed, have equal opportunity to succeed.
This is the very essence of who we are.
It’s what unites us and keeps us close.
It’s what guides our approach to the world.
It’s why we work together for rules based international order, why we seek to resolve conflict through dialogue and why we work tirelessly for global cooperation between states.
It is also why we advocate free, open and fair trade.
And why we encourage individual enterprise and recognise the power of private enterprise to be a force for good to generate wealth and raise our living standards.
All of this underpins our very successful economic relationship.
This is the 15th year of the Australia-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, an agreement that by any measure has been a great success.
Total two-way trade has doubled and was valued at $74 billion in 2018, making the United States now our third largest trading partner.
Importantly, I’d also make the point that it is a ‘fair’ trading relationship.
All U.S. exports enter Australia tariff and quota free.
Investment has almost tripled to $1.7 trillion in two way terms, with the U.S. investing more here than in either Japan or China.
So we are strategic allies, but we are also most definitely partners in trade and partners in the business of delivering jobs, growth and prosperity for our people.
It was in this vein that Prime Minister Morrison has been in the US, meeting with President Trump.
And as I said, proudly, many of the outcomes from that trip have been in areas directly related to my portfolio.
Both our countries know how important new technologies are to improving existing businesses to create new products and markets and enhance daily life.
Because of this, the President and Prime Minister agreed to hold a high level dialogue to advance frontier technologies.
The goal is to collaborate and reap the benefits of technologies for business and our people.
The worth of Artificial Intelligence alone to the global economy over the next decade is tipped to be around the $16 trillion mark.
Prime Minister Morrison and President Trump also agreed the National Science Foundation will send a delegation to Australia to meet with our scientific, engineering and education communities to identify areas of mutual and strategic interest for closer research engagement.
There was further agreement to develop a joint Critical Minerals Action Plan to bolster the security of rare earth and other minerals and improve the supply chain connectivity between our nations.
But it is our announcement on space that takes our cooperation to the next level and offers limitless potential for Australian businesses.
Australia and the U.S. share a long association when it comes to this great human endeavour.
Australia’s satellites, world class scientists and southern hemisphere location have made us a close and trusted partner of NASA in virtually all space missions over the last 60 years.
All those years ago, JFK famously issued the challenge to put a man on the Moon – not because it was easy but because it is hard. Today we take up that challenge again with a new generation and new dreams.
With an investment of $150 million into the Australian space sector our businesses will have the opportunity to take part in NASA’s plan to return to the Moon and then on to Mars.
It’s an ambitious objective.
It’s an inspiring vision.
A recognition that it is time for a new era of exploration.
A recognition that such goals can enthuse and stimulate scientific discovery and drive breakthroughs.
And it is an acknowledgement that a human presence on the Moon, and the lessons learnt from achieving that, will be critical to our ability to explore and push further into the universe.
But it’s the economic potential which really excites me and excites the Prime Minister.
Space is an emerging industry here in Australia with limitless possibilities and potential.
By investing in our Australian space businesses, we are giving them the opportunity to tap into NASA’s supply chains.
It gives them an entry point, which will help to grow their businesses and create local jobs.
The Morrison Government established the Australian Space Agency just last year with a goal of tripling the size of the sector.
At last estimate it was worth around $4 billion and employed 10,000 people. We want that to become $12 billion and an additional 20,000 jobs by 2030.
How do we do that?
Well, I immediately think of our expertise in areas such as robotics, automation, Artificial Intelligence, and Earth Observation that we have the chance to demonstrate to the world.
Thanks to our incredible knowledge from our mining sector, we have some world-leading expertise in automation and robotics.
For example, many of our mines in the Pilbara in Western Australia are being managed 1600 kilometres away in Perth. These technologies could be developed further and may help NASA on its journey to Mars.
But there’s also real potential for manufacturers outside of the space sector, to transfer their products and skills into a new area.
And the jobs are REAL and BROAD. It’s not just astrophysicists. We will see jobs for tradespeople who are managing and maintaining equipment, through to salespeople.
Space also makes our lives better. It’s the reason we have Google Maps on our phones. These GPS applications are used for delivery and ride sharing services such as Uber.
Kidney dialysis came about because of the Apollo missions.
Images from satellites help our farmers to manage their land, crops and herds, by helping inform decisions on use of water resources and fertilisers.
Water data is also used by others to monitor environmental health and predict things like drought.
Earth Observation services provide bushfire information so that emergency services can notify and keep people safe, monitor fire fronts and provide key updates for natural disaster response.
Maritime authorities also use space systems to check for illegal fishing activity and monitor species like whale populations.
Now given this series is billed as Meet the Minister, I feel I should offer some insight into who I am, what I believe in and what sort of Minister I am and hope to be.
I am a mechanical engineer. Now what does that mean when it comes to me as a politician?
It means I am process orientated and outcomes focused. I take a very scientific approach.
That doesn’t mean I’m inflexible. It means I work with the finish line in sight.
I like to identify the challenge or the opportunity. I then like to explore a range of solutions, test the pros and cons for each solution and make a decision based on the best evidence I have before me.
It is this very straightforward approach that I use to work through every issue in this role.
My science background also drives my desire to bring science and technology together with Australia’s strong and growing industries – like manufacturing, mining and agri-business – to create jobs and grow competitive businesses for the future.
I want to contribute to the lives of everyday Australians, and do my part in making Australia a better place and a more prosperous place.
I’m not much for the noise and insider dramatics of politics. I believe in hard work and subscribe to the Prime Minister’s mantra that if you have a go, you’ll get a go.
It’s a very Aussie way of saying what Americans also believe – the American Dream.
As a Government though, we have a responsibility for getting the settings right so people and businesses who are putting in “get that go.”
You do that by getting the fundamentals right, not spending more than you have and creating an environment where businesses, individual enterprise and endeavour can flourish.
We must never lose sight of the fact that we are a market economy and it is the private sector that generates and drives the creation of wealth.
That is why as a Government we believe in a hand-up, not a hand-out.
It’s why our investments in things like innovation are often through matched funding or our R&D tax incentive which requires businesses to invest in themselves as well.
As Minister I want to help businesses make the most of their potential so we can deliver our nation’s potential.
And that is why this job is so exciting.
But I am acutely aware that Australia is a relatively small country. We cannot hope to prosper in isolation.
We know that for Australian businesses to continue to grow and create local jobs, we need to access export markets. That requires strong relationships and global partners.
In the United States we have such a partner.
From battlefields, to laboratories, to boardrooms, to the outer limits of space we are partners.
More than that, as I said earlier, we are family. And a well-functioning one at that!
Who knows what the future holds, what discoveries and breakthroughs will be made.
But our bond, our affinity for each other and our unwavering beliefs will keep us close and draw us ever closer.
This is as it should be and always will be.