Cities and the Built Environment: Germany and Australia Learning from Each Other

We were delighted to welcome the Hon Jamie Briggs MP, Minister for Cities and the Built Environment, for a visit to Munich last week focusing on Munich’s approach to integrated planning, housing, public transport and accessibility, innovation and economic growth.

Munich is Germany’s third-largest city and one of its fastest-growing, with a current population of 2.8 million in the Greater Munich area, projected to grow to 3 million by 2030. Munich shares many similarities with a number of Australia’s fastest-growing cities, and the Minister was keen to understand how the city has managed its recent growth, as well as its approaches to the integration of migrant communities.

A highlight of the Minister’s visit was the meeting with Dr Marcel Huber MdL, Head of the Bavarian State Chancellery and State Minister for Federal and Special Affairs, where the Minister heard about Bavaria’s approach to integrated planning, as well as the significant integration challenges arising from the recent influx of asylum-seekers to the region.

Photo of Minister Briggs with Dr Marcel Huber MdL, Head of the Bavarian State Chancellery and State Minister for Federal and Special Affairs standing next to each other

Minister Briggs with Dr Marcel Huber MdL, Head of the Bavarian State Chancellery and State Minister for Federal and Special Affairs


The Minister’s meeting with representatives of the Chamber of Industry and Commerce for Munich and Upper Bavaria (IHK) focused on trade and investment, innovation and the collaboration between universities, institutes and industry in Bavaria. Minister Briggs said Australia was keen to collaborate more with Germany on innovation and commercialisation, and agreed we should do more to boost trade and investment, including exports of Australian wine to the Bavarian region.

Minister Briggs stands next to Peter Driessen, Managing Director IHK Munich. They have exhanged gifts and hold them in their hands. Briggs has received a Bavarian cup and Driessen holds a wrapped package.

Minister Briggs and Peter Driessen, Managing Director IHK Munich

A discussion with representatives of the Munich Transport Company (MVG) offered insights into the city’s highly successful integrated approach to public transport and urban planning. At the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), the Minister heard about Munich’s experiences with the integration of asylum-seekers in the region, including the importance of targeted language courses, training and skills recognition to promote quick integration into German society.

During the discussions, Minister Briggs highlighted the warm and longstanding people-to-people links between Australia and Germany, including in his South Australian electorate. Echoing the recommendations from the recent report of the Australia-Germany Advisory Group, Minister Briggs emphasised that Australia wanted to build on these existing links to strengthen bilateral ties.

Prime Minister Turnbull on a visit to Berlin

The Australian Prime Minister, the Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP, made an enormously successful visit to Berlin on Friday, 13 November, only the third country he had visited since becoming Prime Minister.  Mr Turnbull was accompanied by his wife, Lucy Turnbull AO, and by the Australian Finance Minister, Senator Mathias Cormann.
During his visit the Prime Minister was hosted by Chancellor Merkel at a working lunch in the Federal Chancellery, met the German Foreign Minister, Frank Walter Steinmeier, had a roundtable meeting with very senior German business leaders and attended a reception in his honour at the Australian Embassy.  He also met German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble during a private dinner on the evening of 13 November.

Prime Minister Turnbull was hosted by Chancellor Merkel at a working lunch in the Federal Chancellery

The main focus of the Prime Minister’s visit was receiving the report of the Australia-Germany Advisory Group, established when Chancellor Merkel visited Australia in November 2014 to look at ways of upgrading and strengthening the already very close and warm bilateral relationship between Germany and Australia.  The Co-Chairs of the Advisory Group are Senator Cormann on the Australian side and the Staatsministerin in the German Foreign Office, Professor Maria Böhmer. Senator Cormann and Minister Böhmer presented the report to the Prime Minister and Chancellor following their meeting at the Chancellery.
The report contains 59 major recommendations aimed at building a much stronger and more modern relationship between the two countries.  All 59 recommendations have now been agreed to by both the Prime Minister and Chancellor and will now be implemented.  Of particular note is a decision by both countries to have a regular “2 + 2” dialogue of their Foreign and Defence Ministers to discuss major international and strategic issues.
In addition, on 12 November, Senator Cormann and Finance Minister Schäuble signed a revised Australia-Germany Double Taxation Agreement, the first such revision since the agreement was originally signed in 1972.  The revision of the Agreement will benefit both the Australian and German business communities significantly.  The signature of the Agreement represented the implementation of the first of the Advisory Group’s recommendations.

Senator Cormann and Finance Minister Schäuble signed a revised Australia-Germany Double Taxation Agreement

I commend the report to you all and urge you to read it.  It is an excellent outcome from a year’s dedicated work both by the two Co-Chairs and by all members of the Advisory Group, which included Lucy Turnbull.
Chancellor Merkel and the Prime Minister agreed that Senator Cormann and Professor Böhmer should continue to monitor the implementations of the report’s recommendations and to report back to them on progress in doing so in 12 months.
Sadly, following the completion of his program in Berlin, the terrible terrorist attacks occurred in Paris.  Follow this link to see the Prime Minister’s comments on these awful events from Berlin.


Welcome, Young Endeavour

For those of you who live near or are planning on visiting Bremerhaven over the next couple of days, could I draw your attention to the magnificent Sail Bremerhaven 2015 Festival that is on there at the moment (12-16 August).  Not only does it bring together some of the world’s most beautiful and exciting tall ships but, most important for we Australians, for the very first time includes the famous Australian sail training ship, the Young Endeavour, which arrived in Bremerhaven on 12 August.  I had the great pleasure of meeting the Commander of the Young Endeavour, Lieutenant Commander Gavin Dawe OAM RAN, during a reception which President Gauck hosted in Bremerhaven on 12 August and I know that he and his crew would warmly welcome meeting as many Aussies as possible during their short stay there.  So go along and support the Young Endeavour and its crew.  

The Young Endeavour on approach to dock (source Wikimedia Commons, Chris Phutully from Australia)

The Young Endeavour on approach to dock (source: Wikimedia Commons [CC BY 2.0], Chris Phutully from Australia)