On Friday September 20, Tony Abbott’s office telephoned chief executives of 20 major Australian companies inviting them to accompany the Prime Minister on a two-day trip to Jakarta, Indonesia.
The trip was only 10 days away.
Commonwealth Bank chief Ian Narev was part of the business delegation, which involved 14 other business leaders including representatives of ANZ, Leighton, Macquarie and BlueScope.
Here’s what Narev told the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce about the trip this afternoon:
The Prime Minister did exactly what he said he was going to do prior to the election – get to Indonesia quickly to emphasise its importance.
Twelve days ago, his department rang 20 chief executives who dropped what they had to do and accompanied him to Indonesia. I was commenting to one of the chief executives, [that] just showed us what we do every day isn’t actually that important anyway.
The trip, although characterised by many as being about a lot of political issues, which frankly we didn’t even see, sent a very strong signal to Indonesians with whom we want to do business, about the importance of that economy not only to our businesses, but to Australia more broadly.
That is a very positive step, one which has benefited business significantly.
It’s critical to understand that, if there are markets like Indonesia, with a quarter of a billion people, GDP growth projected a 5.5 to 6 per cent each year, that we want to be part of.
A legitimate expectation of our counter-party is some reciprocity in terms of their goals within Australia. And that’s something we must take seriously if we are to maximise the opportunities between the two countries.
Business leaders might expect future trips with the Prime Minister to come as less of a surprise, with the Department of Foreign Affairs And Trade reportedly setting up a register for businesses to lodge their interest.