Australia India Chamber of Commerce Keynote speech

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The Hon Matt Keogh MP

Minister for Defence Personnel

Minister for Veterans’ Affairs

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Stephanie Mathews on 0407 034 485

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27 June 2023

I wish to start by acknowledging the traditional custodians of the land on which we meet today, the Whadjuk Noongar People of South-Western Australia and pay my respects to their elders past and present.

I'm proud to be part of a government that will give all Australians the chance to vote in a referendum to recognise Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples in our Constitution.

I’m also proud that this conference acknowledges and celebrates the solidarity between Australia and India.

To those of you from interstate and overseas, I welcome you here to my home town.

The links between Australian and Indian people run deep.

In fact, in my local community in Perth’s south eastern suburbs, we have one of the largest Indian diaspora communities in Australia, with more than 15,000 people of Indian heritage.

Our relationship with India goes back more than a century. 

Just recently a street outside the WACA was renamed “Sailani Avenue” to commemorate the contribution of Indian ANZAC Private Nain Singh Sailani and acknowledge the sacrifices of Western Australia’s Indian ANZACs.

The Western Australian Indian community continues to make an enormous contribution to our State’s vibrant multicultural society on every level – in business, trade, academics, medicine, law, the public sector and community support.

With its rich cultural traditions, the Indian diaspora represents a significant part of our inclusive, culturally diverse society, and that’s certainly something that flows through my electorate.

In early 2018 I had the honour of participating in the Australia India Youth Dialogue in Delhi and Mumbai.

On that trip we had the opportunity to discuss economic and cultural ties, civic engagement and digital disruption.

It’s so fantastic to see the progress that’s been made in the Australian, Indian relationship since 2018.

Indeed, three of our Government’s Ministers have participated in the AIYD, myself, the Minister for Aged Care and Sport Anika Wells, and Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs, Tim Watts.

My good friend and colleague, Deputy Prime Minister Marles, who is also our Defence Minister, made sure that visiting India was one of his first priorities when we came into Government.

Prime Ministers Albanese and Modi have now met six times in the last 12 months, our first year of government, demonstrating the strength and trajectory of our bilateral relationship.

In March, both Prime Ministers agreed to strengthen the Australia-India defence and security partnership in support of both nations’ shared ambition for an open, stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific.

We’re proud of our Quad relationship, our leaders coming together in unity, to work together with our close friends and partners, and engage openly and constructively.

We share an interest in having a free and open Indo-Pacific and we are working very closely together to see that happen.

And when you look at India's view of the region, it very much accords with our own – especially for those of us here in Perth - and we find ourselves having conversations about the region, our Indian Ocean, where really we are as one.

And that's why we would say we are strategically aligned.

I’m pleased Assistant Foreign Minister Watts announced in May that Australia will host the next Indian Ocean Conference in 2024.

Right now, we have a greater strategic alignment with India than we really have at any point in both of our countries’ histories.

We have a real investment together in the rules of the international road, the global rules-based order.

Here in WA, we’re close neighbours and share an Ocean.

We want to see open trade occurring in all of that.

The Australian Government is also working with industry and international partners to help Australian critical minerals projects link to emerging markets in India.

Critical minerals are also crucial components for medical technologies, electric vehicles and defence applications.

We've been really growing the defence relationship between our two countries.

We’ve increased the tempo of exercises, building interoperability, giving much greater access to our facilities for both countries, and we want to see that continue.

We are pursuing initiatives that deepen the complexity, interoperability and sophistication of our defence cooperation with India.

We’re conducting joint exercises that will not only strengthen our interoperability but the relationships between our personnel as well.

Our Defence people are our most important capability.

Later this year we will welcome Indian forces to Australia with Exercises MALABAR and AUSINDEX.

Australia will host the second iteration of the general Rawat India-Australia Young Defence Officers’ Exchange program next year to improve the relationships between, and capabilities of our combined personnel, following India’s inaugural iteration of the event in March.

Earlier this year our Government released the Defence Strategic Review.

Our response to the Review recognises the importance of our partnership with India and the importance of India’s regional leadership in the Indian Ocean.

Deepening our partnership with India across the board is a key priority of Government.

As we contend with a more challenging strategic environment, it is increasingly important that the defence industrial bases of likeminded countries work more effectively and close together.

Industry collaboration on defence technology increases the resilience of our supply chains, delivers better capability to our respective armed forces, and increases our interoperability in the long term.

I’m so pleased that at the end of last year we revitalised the Australia–India Joint working group on Defence Industry, Research, and Materiel.

Prime Minister Albanese and Deputy Prime Minister Marles have highlighted the significance of this working group to enhance cooperation in these areas for our industry.

I note that India is focused on growing its defence industrial base and sovereign defence capabilities.

Like India, Australia has this same commitment, and we’re developing our Defence Industry Development Strategy.

There are so many opportunities for Australian Industry with India.

Indian Defence Industry is growing in scale and scope, with significant manufacturing capacity.

It is my hope that forums like today will continue to look at ways to remove barriers and capitalise on the significant opportunities that exist.

In May Prime Minister Albanese and Foreign Minister Penny Wong announced that the new Centre for Australia-India Relations will be head-quartered in Parramatta, in Sydney.

The Centre began operations last month and will drive deeper engagement with India through business, policy and cultural activities and work with Indian diaspora communities.

The Centre will be led by Chair Swati Dave and CEO Tim Thomas.

Recently I joined Foreign Minister Penny Wong here in Perth for a Perth India Business roundtable to discuss how we can improve the business to business relationships between our two nations.

The Australia India Chamber of Commerce plays such an important role in helping Australian companies connect with Indian counterparts to form partnerships – I thank you for the work you do.


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