Last week saw a novelty in the official links between Australia’s and Germany’s biggest cities, Sydney and Berlin. At the initiative of the Committee for Sydney, a live video connection was set up between an auditorium in Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art and a studio in Berlin, creating a platform for a direct dialogue between senior representatives and panels in the two cities about common issues and challenges.
Sydney opened the presentation and discussion, with Ms Lucy Turnbull AO, in her capacity as Chair of the Committee for Sydney and President of the German-Australian Chamber of Industry and Commerce, welcoming and introducing participants at both ends.
Berlin’s Senator for Economics, Technology and Research, Ms Cornelia Yzer, then took the floor to talk about her city’s strengths, with its broadly-based research and development activities, supported by three major universities with a total of more than 100,000 students. This, she said, attracted increasingly more companies investing in new or expanded operations. I was certainly happy to confirm in a brief presentation over the video link that Sydney and Berlin were a good match in the way they spearhead developments on that front, in Australia and Germany but also as internationally leading cities.
One of Berlin’s leading urban planning experts, Dr Ares Kalandides, continued the exchange with an impressive presentation outlining some of the issues Berlin is current dealing with in further detail, including with infrastructure planning and housing and social development – and that triggered a lively response from the panel at the other end, chaired by the Committee of Sydney’s CEO, Dr Tim Williams.
I was impressed to see the depth of discussion which followed, and clearly the two cities share many challenges as leading and strongly-growing centres in their respective countries. But, quite apart from the substantial exchange, the face-to-face interaction offered by the live video link was a very welcome addition to our bilateral channels of communication.