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.
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.
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.