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Goff: Opening of the Australia NZ Leadership Forum

Hon Phil Goff
Minister of Trade

13 June 2008

Speech Notes

Opening of the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum

Te Papa, Wellington

Kia Ora Katoa.
Deputy Prime Ministers Julia Gillard and Michael Cullen, Ministerial and parliamentary colleagues from Australia and New Zealand.
Forum Co-Chairs John Allen and Rod McGeoch.
Distinguished guests.

Welcome to this fifth Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum in Wellington.

This forum had its origins back in 2002 when then Australian Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer and I agreed that the relationship between the two countries would be enhanced by bringing together business, political and academic leaders from each country to exchange views on key issues facing our countries and the region.

I thank our chairs for the effort they have put into bringing us together here again and a special thanks to the new Australian Government. Your presence here in unprecedented numbers is a strong reaffirmation from your side of the importance you attach to the relationship.

We look forward to hearing from Ministers in this first session about the priorities and objectives of the newly elected Labour Government.

Back in 1900 the Australian Federal Constitution created provision for New Zealand to join the Federation. We have never taken up that offer and nor has Australia shown the inclination to become our West Island.

That has not prevented us working closely together as like-minded countries pursuing the values and objectives we share.

Over the last century we have together forged the Anzac tradition and today continue to serve along side each other in Afghanistan and in the Pacific as part of our Closer Defence Relationship.

This year we mark the 25th anniversary of Closer Economic Relations, an agreement described by the WTO as the best quality bilateral Free Trade Agreement in the world.

We continue to build on this Agreement, by working towards a single economic market so that businesses face common standards and rules in both countries.
And in international trade we are working in partnership to promote a more liberalised world environment which is to the benefit of our exporters.

Over the last week Simon Crean and I were together at an APEC meeting in Arequipa, Peru and at the OECD and a WTO mini-ministerial in Paris, arguing in very similar terms about the need to conclude the WTO Round and pressing for solutions to the challenges of climate change and the food crisis.

Yesterday, together with State and Federal ministers in Sydney at the Correctional Services Ministers meeting we shared experiences and ideas in addressing contemporary challenges in that area.

Meetings like this involving state Ministers across a range of portfolios as well as regular meetings at the level of Prime Minister, Finance, Trade, Defence, Foreign Affairs and Economic Ministers are an important part of ensuring that we as two countries work with each other in pursuit of common interests.

So there is a lot that we do together, as you would expect from two countries with similar histories and geographic location, cultures, institutions and values.

But there are risks in complacency about the relationship and not moving it forward to maximise the opportunities it presents.

And that requires building relations beyond simply the political level.

Hence the importance of this Forum.

It provides a structure through which senior business, public sector, media, academic and community as well as political leaders from both countries can engage on matters of mutual importance.

It creates the opportunity to discuss significant issues which this year include advancing a Single Economic Market, international trade, climate change, demography and strategic issues in the region.

To those from Australia, welcome again to the Fifth Leadership Forum, to Te Papa, Our Place, here in Wellington.

To everyone participating here, I wish you a fruitful, informative, stimulating and enjoyable two days of discussion.

No reira, tena koutou katoa.


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