Statement to the APEC Leaders’ Retreat

November 20, 2015



In terms of climate change, on which many speakers have addressed us, including Mr Barack Obama, Australia is committed to an outcome. As the President described, at Paris, we are taking a substantial emissions cut target and it is one which represents on a per capita basis, a 50 per cent cut in emissions by 2020. Which is a substantial figure, I think, second only to Brazil.

Can I move on to some other topics now.

President Aquino reminded us the most valuable capital today is human capital. And there is no doubt that over the last 50 years or so, governments and businesses in our region have invested heavily in increasing the quality of our people in skills and education. This is absolutely critical. Skills shortages remain a very real challenge and a very real brake on development, notwithstanding large levels of unemployment in many countries.

The Boston Consulting Group last year forecast the cost of global labour force imbalances could reach US$10 trillion in lost global GDP to 2030. And that underlines the need for action by forums such as ours.

We need to make sure that people are trained and we are, for our part, we are advancing several practical initiatives in APEC this year. We have worked in cooperation with other APEC economies to benchmark occupational standards in the transport and logistics sectors.

So, I am pleased to announce today that we have successfully developed regional standards for five occupations across five different economies - that is our own, China, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam. That is an important practical outcome that will help ensure better alignment between technical skills training and the real-world on-the-job needs of industry. It will also allow a more efficient flow of workers across borders where they are needed, thus, maximising the economic output.

Next year, we will expand this initiative to four Latin American economies, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru. I should also add that we are announcing today that we are contributing $2 million to support project work in APEC's capacity building efforts to support the implementation of market-oriented reform in services sectors. That builds on a $3 million contribution Australia made in 2010 to support structural reform within the APEC economies. So, we are a very strong supporter of APEC's work. In terms of education cooperation, we support the mobility in the region of students, researchers and education providers. We support that because it fosters cultural understanding as well, of course, for the economic benefits of which I spoke.

Can I say a little bit now about the role of women in the economy. And I would just add to, supplement what I said earlier, as we know, the case for increasing women's economic participation and empowerment is compelling from every perspective. Ethical, economic, developmental, it is absolutely a key priority. It has been calculated that if women could increase their income globally by up to 76 per cent if the employment participation and wage gap between men and women were closed. That increase in income is estimated to have a global value of $70 trillion.

Now, over the last year, we have led an initiative to identify and address barriers preventing women- run small and medium-sized enterprises gaining access to export markets. Now, there has been a lot of discussion in this forum about small and medium enterprises. The truth is that it has never been easier to have a small business, to start a small business.

Modern cloud-based technology means that the cost of starting a business is much lower than it has ever been and the ability of course to buy so many of the services that you need as a service, as opposed to buying expensive licenses and expensive equipment, is there as well. The cloud has made a gigantic difference, it levels the playing field between small firms and big firms.

There is a big role to play here, I think, for government too. It used to be said that nobody got fired for buying IBM. I guess that is probably showing my age saying it in those terms, but there is nonetheless always a tendency for governments, which are big organisations, to want to deal with other big organisations on the procurement side. Policies which ensure that small and medium enterprises have a good opportunity of dealing with government is very important. I think that is also very important from both an innovation point of view.

I have to say, David Cameron in the UK, through their government digital services initiative has done a very good job there, and, particularly in the area of IT services.

Now, finally can I make some observations about urbanisation. Again, I spoke about that earlier today so I'll try not to repeat what I said earlier. The objective of sustainable, liveable cities is absolutely critical. It is even more critical than ever because the most valuable capital is human capital. Because, if you have an attractive, liveable city, people will want to stay there, people want to move there, it is a big draw card.

Justin Trudeau said that human beings are social animals, and he is absolutely right. One of the things humans like to do is to get together physically. We can have all of the connectivity in the world, we may have the most fastest broadband and the most powerful smart devices but we do like to hang out together.  We are happier, we are more creative, we are more innovative when we connect, and that means that cities have to be more like humans and less like motor cars. It means that mass transit is extremely important.

You have to remember, it is important to remember, that if you don't have good public transport, the people that suffer most are the poor, the old and the young. And if I can quote the great Latin American leader, Enrique Peñalosa, the once and now again mayor of Bogota, the mark of a developed society is not just one where poor people can afford cars, but where rich people use public transport.

And by that, he meant that you have a quality and reliability of mass transit. That makes a gigantic difference in cities. President Xi and I were talking over lunch about the extraordinary progress in China just in 20 years, Shanghai has gone from having no subway system to having what is now the world's largest. But, these are very important priorities and again, I won't repeat what I said earlier about infrastructure development, but this issue of cities is a complex one because much of the planning in many of our countries is done at local government level.

So, in a country like mine with a national, federal government, state governments and city governments, we are a long way from the planning level. But, there does need to be national coordination and encouragement, and that's why we've established, when I was appointed Prime Minister, I established a new ministry for cities and the built environment, the first time at the federal level and that is a very key priority for me and my government. So, we strongly support the urbanisation work, studies of APEC and again, the conference the President of China canvassed earlier.

Finally, in terms of disaster resilience, absolutely we should share our experiences. I was, just a moment ago, speaking to some of the community leaders in the Shire of Esperance in Western Australia where there has been a bushfire, as you know, that is a key feature of Australian summer, four people were killed. Four people died, regrettably, escaping the fire. And we have had shocking disasters with fires, and of course floods. No one is spared natural disasters and, of course, a warmer planet makes extreme weather events more likely, and more extreme.

So, in addition to ensuring we reduce global greenhouse gas emissions in the short term, a lot of this warming is built into the system as President Obama said. And that is where we are learning how best to construct communities that are bushfire resistant, to be better able to deal with bushfires and floods or earthquakes. All of this experience that we all have, we should be making sure that we share. The more we learn from each other the better. So, I think on so many fronts there is enormous prospects for ensuring stronger economies, greater prosperity through deeper collaboration between the nations, the economies of APEC I should say.

Thank you.


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