Germany-Australia Advisory group

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.
PM1

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.
IMG_2919
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.
PM3
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.
12232683_930862667009306_5998555294391970057_o

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.

 

German-Australian Symposium in Berlin

This week I had the pleasure of taking part in the Konrad Adenauer Foundation’s German-Australian Symposium held here in Berlin. The Konrad Adenauer Foundation (KAS) is the political foundation affiliated with Chancellor Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union and has nearly 80 offices around the world. Though the Foundation has run a variety of events promoting German-Australian relations in the past, this is the first time that they have held a German Australian Symposium.

The event brought together leaders from business, academia, government and media from both our countries to discuss what a 21st century relationship between Australia and Germany should look like.

Ambassador David Ritchie, Professor Dr Maria Böhmer, Dr Gerhard Wahlers, Alan Stockdale und Volkmar Klein

Ambassador David Ritchie, Professor Dr Maria Böhmer, Dr Gerhard Wahlers, Alan Stockdale und Volkmar Klein (L-R), Photo: KAS

We were very fortunate to have the participation of Professor Dr Maria Böhmer, Minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office and Co-Chair of the Australia-Germany Advisory Group. The Advisory Group was established by Chancellor Merkel and Prime Minister Abbott and is due to report to both leaders before the end of the year. Australian Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, who will soon visit Germany, is the Co-Chair of the Australian side. She spoke about how, in a globalised world, distance doesn’t matter. Despite our geography we have many common interests and shared values.

Professor Dr Maria Böhmer, Minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office and Co-Chair of the German Australia Advisory Group, standing behind a posium and giving a speech.

Professor Dr Maria Böhmer, Minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office and Co-Chair of the German Australia Advisory Group, Photo: KAS

I spoke about the warm and friendly relationship that our two countries share, noting that, despite the good will on both sides, there is much more that the world’s 4th and 12th biggest economies can do together. The Symposium covered a diverse range of topics. Not only were the big global issues of national security discussed, we also got the chance to see where we can learn from each other in areas such as research, immigration and ways to we can cooperate in the Asia Pacific region. There was also detailed discussion about ways to strengthen our trade and investment relationship.

Ambassador Ritchie steanding behind a podium and holding a speech at KAS

Ambassador David Ritchie, Photo: KAS

I’d like to thank the Konrad Adenauer Foundation very warmly for hosting the event and also extend my thanks to those who took part. I was particularly impressed with the breadth of the discussion. At the event itself you could feel the warmth of our nations’ friendship. Still, as the Symposium highlighted, there is a lot more that we could do together. We need to be brave and make our relationship even stronger, warmer and deeper.

German-Australian Symposium

German-Australian Symposium, Photo: KAS