Australian Embassy
The Philippines

Speech 120228 - Australia Unlimited Lunch - Remarks by Ambassador Bill Tweddell

Australia Unlimited Lunch as part of the PANZ Business Forum
Remarks by Ambassador Bill Tweddell
29 February 2012

I’m pleased to have the opportunity to address you today.

I would like again to acknowledge the hard work undertaken by ANZCHAM in putting together this, the inaugural PANZ Business Forum.

For over thirty years now our business chamber has worked hand-in-hand with business and government from Australia, New Zealand and the Philippines. This forum is a great example of ANZCHAM’s work and I commend John Casey and his team for it.

Ladies and gentlemen, as I mentioned yesterday, my starting point is that business does business. Our role in government is to try to ensure that the enabling environment is right – in terms of a conducive policy environment in which trade and investment can flourish. An important part of government’s advocacy role on behalf of business relates to the generic promotion of Australia and what our people – and especially in today’s context our business people – can do and what they have to offer.

It is in that context that I would like to talk to you today about ‘Australia Unlimited’: a new brand for Australia. You’ve seen the logos and banners. Australia Unlimited will help position the country as an increasingly influential, creative and forward-thinking nation, with the credentials, talent and ideas to make a significant contribution to global issues over the coming decades.

For all of you, as business leaders, ‘Australia Unlimited’ has the potential to make a direct impact on the way you do business. So it is important that we in Government explain the goals of the brand and what it can do for you.

The way a country is internationally perceived matters, both diplomatically and economically. The extent to which people trust, admire and respect a country is directly linked to its ability to attract buyers, investment, talent, students, visitors and attention.

Global research tells us that while Australia has a great reputation internationally, this reputation is skewed towards aesthetic factors – images of natural beauty and an appealing lifestyle – of beaches, sunny skies, and people playing sport; as a desirable holiday destination. And this is all true. But it is not the full picture.

According to Simon Anholt, a leading commentator on national branding, we should build an image that more accurately reflects the reality of contemporary Australia.

Anholt concluded that much of the rest of the world fails to understand or appreciate Australia’s economic impact, political gravitas or intellectual contributions. In simple terms, we are underselling ourselves internationally.

And it’s in this context that the Australian Government has committed $20 million over four years to the Building Brand Australia Program.

The program looks to:

  • develop a contemporary and well-supported brand identity to better communicate Australia's intellectual, creative and commercial credentials;
  • better understand Australia’s global image and share that knowledge with others;
  • establish the Australia Unlimited brand through use of the international media;
  • engage others in the ‘Building Brand Australia Program’ to maximise its visibility, value and sustainability; and lastly
  • identify partners from across government, peak bodies, the not-for-profit sector and the corporate sector who can use the brand to enhance their international work, and in turn help communicate the skills and contributions of contemporary Australia to a global audience.

In short, Australia Unlimited reflects the confidence, creativity and ambitions of contemporary Australia.

Over the next year, the program, administered by the Australian Trade Commission – Austrade – will look to develop content and content platforms to promote Australian capability and – along with social media and international PR activities – give voice to Australian success and promote it to the world.

This will include the launch of an Australia Unlimited iPad app: a free, monthly digital magazine that incorporates feature articles and interviews, highlighted with videos, slideshows, music and photography.

For a number of reasons, Australia Unlimited is well suited to strengthening the Australia – Philippines commercial relationship.

Australia and the Philippines enjoy a natural synergy. For us in government, that natural synergy is based on shared values: a commitment to democracy; a determination to work for peace, security and economic growth; a passion for transparency and good governance; respect for human rights; and care for the environment.

Importantly for business, the natural synergy in our commercial relationship is founded on the particular characteristics of Australian and Philippine cultures, economies and societies.

As I mentioned yesterday, when I was preparing for this assignment, I travelled across Australia meeting businesses that had interests in the Philippines. I heard the many reasons why business was choosing to partner with, and invest in, the Philippines.

I was told that the Philippines has many advantages, including its work ethic, education system, dynamism and creativity, strong English language skills, a service culture and the mobility of Filipinos.

We cannot underestimate the value of the Philippines’ remarkable level of English language fluency. From Ilocos to Davao, the English language skills imparted in a nation-wide schooling system have built a bridge from the Philippines to the world. In government, tourism, trade and investment, this makes the Philippines a particularly approachable country for Australians.

Taken together, English language skills and cultural adaptability have underpinned the Philippines’ successful move into the call centre and BPO sector. This is a significant success and one that is forcing Australian business to look closely at the Philippines.

The Philippines’ ‘service culture’ – which results from Filipinos’ natural inclination to be polite, friendly and accommodating – has also been important to the Philippines’ success in the BPO sector, but also in the health and hospitality areas as well. [I am unsure whether the many thousands of Filipino call centre workers successfully interpreting thick Australian and Kiwi accents receive the credit they deserve. ]

There are natural complementarities between these Philippine characteristics and the ingenuity that defines Australians.

Australia is a modern, successful, innovative, green and culturally rich country. Australia and its people are young, innovative, friendly, environmentally responsible and diverse. We have one of the strongest economies in the developed world.

We are well-known for our high-quality and innovative products and services. Australian food and wine is among the best in the world.

Australia also has a world-class education system that is research-oriented and highly innovative. We are proud that Australia has produced Nobel Laureates like Howard Florey, who was the co-discoverer of penicillin; and Barry Marshall and Robin Warren who discussed that a bacterium causes stomach ulcers. Many other researchers at Australian universities and research centres have made significant discoveries that influence our lives every day.

Australian innovation has also led to the development of:

  • Google maps;
  • Xerox photocopying;
  • Wireless internet (wifi);
  • The black box flight recorder;
  • polymer banknotes;
  • the heart pacemaker;
  • the cochlear implant; and
  • the cervical cancer vaccine.

Our trading relationship with the Philippines has been strengthened by the recent conclusion of the ASEAN Australia New Zealand Free Trade Agreement, or AANZFTA. As Australia’s Trade Minister Dr Craig Emerson noted in his message to this forum, AANZFTA is widely considered to be a “gold standard FTA”.

Indeed, I am unaware of any other regional agreement to date which has realised such a high level of ambition in both trade and investment liberalisation but also in its commitment to building the capacity of ASEAN countries like the Philippines.

It is in that context that I am pleased to launch here in Manila a new brand for Australia: Australia Unlimited.

In closing ladies and gentlemen, let me underline once again that the Australian Embassy is committed to working with you all to support the business environment and to help create the conditions for business to flourish. If we can achieve this - then businesses will grow, economic activity will be generated, jobs will be created, children will be educated and poverty will be reduced – in short, a mutually beneficial result for all of us.

Thank you, and good afternoon.