Canberra Delegation 2019

The 2019 German-Australian Chamber Canberra delegation was a huge success.

Over 20 delegates from the AHK network joined Dr Michael Zettinig and Kerrie Thornton from the Chamber team with the aim of raising the profile of the Chamber in supporting the bilateral relationship between Australia and Germany as well as continuing and deepening our engagement with decision makers in Canberra.

Canberra turned on immaculate warm spring weather with not a cloud in the sky for our arrival on Monday 21 October at the Kurrajong Hotel.

Our first appointment was a casual dinner with the Vice-Chancellor of the Australian National University, member of the Australia-Germany Advisory Group and Nobel Laureate, Professor Brian Schmidt and his Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) Professor Keith Nugent. Over two hours of discussion about ANU’s research priorities and future strategy and how it can engage more with industry ensued. We are grateful to Professors Schmidt and Nugent for their time and their ongoing commitment to partnering with German research institutes and industry. This dinner opened up many future potential collaborations between ANU and the Chamber members present.

The next morning started bright and early for all as breakfast was served at 7.30am in the Dame Enid Lyons (Australia’s first female member of the House of Representatives) Alcove at Parliament House. Special guests included H.E. Dr Thomas Fitschen, German Ambassador to Australia and The Hon Senator Matthias Cormann, Australian Minister for Finance and Special Minister of State.  We also had the pleasure of hosting the Hon Angus Taylor MP, Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction, who discussed issues with all of our delegates extensively and the Hon Paul Fletcher MP, Minister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts, and the Hon Steve Irons MP, Assistant Minister for Vocational Education, Training and Apprenticeships. Many other MPs and Senators including Independent Member for Warringah, Zali Steggall and The Hon Senator Eric Abetz, also attended and engaged with our delegates.

From Parliament House we made our way to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), a new addition to the Canberra delegation program.

ASPI was not only willing but clearly enthusiastic about briefing such a high-level German-Australian business delegation. ASPI’s Director, Defence and Strategy, Michael Shoebridge who previously headed the Defence, Intelligence and Research Coordination Division in the Prime Minister’s Department, spoke at length and in depth about defence, communications, cyber security, the digital economy and Industry 4.0. ASPI brought in an expert from the US military with experience in Germany which made for an even more illuminating discussion about geopolitics and particularly the impact of the new competition between the US, China and Russia on the rest of the world’s economy.

From ASPI the delegation took a short stroll in the Canberra sunshine to the National Press Club where over 100 people from business and education gathered for a delicious lunch and to hear the Chairman of the German-Australian Chamber, Jeff Connolly, speak about preparing for the 4th industrial revolution– or as Germany calls it, Industrie 4.0. Jeff’s address was filmed by SkyNews and was broadcast on Friday 25 October 2019. This event raised the profile of the Chamber and highlighted the important role it plays in improving collaboration between the education and business sectors in Australia.

After lunch it was back to Parliament House for a marathon afternoon of meetings with key decision makers. First off the rank was the ever generous and insightful Alison Burrows, Chief Negotiator for the Australia-EU Free Trade Agreement at DFAT. Alison answered all questions from the delegation with incredible intelligence and humour and offered to follow up with many individuals in the room on specific issues. Alison expressed her appreciation for the Chamber’s ongoing engagement with her and DFAT throughout the negotiations.

The next hour was spent with Government Ministers and advisers including Education Minister, the Hon Dan Tehan MP and Assistant Minister for Vocational Education and Training, the Hon Steve Irons MP, who had also given his time generously to our delegation at breakfast. The delegation was also joined by senior advisers to Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, Minister for Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business.   Though all very tired by this time we were lucky to have a final hour of very lively discussion with Shadow Ministers and their senior advisers including Madeleine King, Shadow Minister for Trade, the Hon Brendan O’Çonnor MP, Shadow Minister for Employment, Industry and Science and the Chief of Staff to the Hon Mark Butler MP, Shadow Minister for Climate Change and Energy.

There is much to be done now by Chamber staff to follow up on the many discussions that were held in the packed 24 hour Canberra delegation program.

The Chamber would like to thank all our delegates who not only came along but who participated in such a lively and engaging way that ensured a really worthwhile event for everyone involved.