Business Councils’ Executive engages with Australian Government in Canberra

Mar 17, 2024 | Blog, News

A delegation comprising seventeen members of the Australia Pacific Business Council, the Australia Fiji Business Council and the Australia Papua New Guinea Business Councils’ Senior Executive and other executive committee members embarked on a significant visit to Canberra on 26 and 27 February 2024. The purpose of the visit was to engage in discussions with key stakeholders within the Australian government, aimed at supporting Australian businesses in the Pacific region.

Representing various Business Councils, participants included distinguished figures such as Simon Gorman, President of the Australia Pacific Islands Business Council, David Gibson, Vice-President of the Australia Fiji Business Council, Vaughan Mills, President of the Australia Papua New Guinea Business Council, and Nihal Shah, the Vice-President, among others. The delegation was accompanied by Frank Yourn, the Councils’ Executive Director.

The focal point of the visit was a meeting with Liz Peak, Head of the Office of the Pacific, who orchestrated a productive roundtable discussion with Council representatives. Additionally, supplementary meetings were held with prominent officials such as Mr. Jamie Isbister and Mr. Andrew Cumpston, facilitating candid exchanges on pertinent issues faced by Australian businesses in the Pacific.

Reflecting on the meetings, Andrew Morris, Treasurer of the Australia Pacific Islands Business Council, highlighted the importance of engaging with ministers from both Australian and Pacific governments. He said the opportunity to address challenges encountered in remote areas, including visa applications and foreign exchange concerns was useful. Morris underscored the positive outcomes achieved by Australian contractors in comparison to their Chinese counterparts, citing timely and budget-friendly project completions.

Trade & Investment Queensland Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner Leata Alaimoana said the interactions were valuable, bringing together the Business Councils, the Federal Government, DFAT and the Pacific Diplomatic Corps, all helping drive projects in the Pacific.  “The intent of public and private sector to work together to drive economic and social impact in the Pacific is encouraging to see,” she added.

The Councils took the opportunity to outline their upcoming events for 2024, including business forums and seminars aimed at fostering collaboration and economic growth across the region. “We had open discussions around upcoming projects with the hope we made some kind of contribution to getting them off the ground,” Morris said.

Meetings with The Hon Pat Conroy MP, Minister for the Pacific and International Development, and with the Co-convenors of the Australian Parliament Friends of the Pacific, provided additional avenues for constructive dialogue.

“Such interactions are important opportunities for us to get across to the officials the main factors that affect Australian business in the Pacific – so that they can take them up bilaterally with their counterparts in those countries,” Shah said.

Regular engagement with the Office of the Pacific and with key Ministers and members of the Commonwealth Parliament provide important opportunities for two-way exchanges on issues which are of considerable importance to Australian business interests and to the Australian national interest, Yourn said.

The visit underscored the commitment of Australian business councils to deepen engagement with government entities and diplomatic representatives, with a focus on advancing the interests of Australian businesses and their counterparts in the Pacific region.

“It was great to see the breadth of engagement and the importance accorded to the Business Councils by senior government officials,” Shah concluded.