Australia now – a flagship public diplomacy initiative that celebrates contemporary Australian innovation, creativity and lifestyle – complements our trade and strategic relationship with a key partner country each year.

The Foreign Policy White Paper, the first comprehensive policy paper on Australia’s international engagement since 2003, will chart a clear course in a time of change and uncertainty. It will set out the Government’s strategy for engaging with the world, and in particular the Indo-Pacific region, over the next decade. Australia’s interests are global, but our priorities are increasingly centred in Asia and the Indian and Pacific oceans, from India in the West to North America in the East, from Antarctica in the South to China, Japan and neighbouring countries in the North.

Protecting Australia and our way of life is the most important responsibility of the Federal Government. It is a role that we must now perform in the face of ever greater uncertainty and complexity.

Australian scientists, funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), identified fundamental productivity problems with the main food crops in Timor-Leste. The lack of a national seed system meant that even if farmers were aware of improved varieties to plant, they were unable to access sufficient quality-assured seed. So ACIAR developed a research project in partnership with the new government of Timor-Leste that trialed and introduced new, higher-yielding varieties of the major food crops, and developed a national seed system to ensure ready availability across the country. 

Across the world, education, training and research are what I call the transformative triumvirate. They have the power to transform the lives of individuals and to positively change societies and economies.

Our education, training and research institutions, with their reputation of achievement in teaching, inquiry and endeavour, have a particular role to play in our region. Their considered thought and their networks have the ability to help us inform our interactions and how we shape our environment – domestically and internationally.

With around two-thirds of our total agricultural production exported around the world, Australia’s foreign policy is an essential factor in the continuing and fast-growing success of our agricultural sector. This is one of the reasons the government is currently developing a Foreign Policy White Paper, which will provide a roadmap for advancing Australia’s agricultural interests overseas and define how we engage with the world in the years ahead.

As a small, open economy, Australia – and the lives of its people – are very much affected by international developments. Australia’s economic fortunes are inextricably linked to its ability to optimise the benefits of trade and international investment.