The following is an edited extract by Senator the Hon Marise Payne, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Minister for Women, Liberal Senator for New South Wales to Western Sydney Awards for Business Excellence delivered on November 29 2020 in Parramatta.
2020 been like no other year in our lifetimes.
The impacts of the health and economic crisis that is COVID-19 have been global impacts, placing great stress on the rules, institutions and relationships that contribute to the safety, prosperity and openness of Australia’s region – the Indo-Pacific.
In my role as Australia’s Foreign Minister, most of the international engagements that I would usually have in foreign capitals or in Canberra when counterparts visit from overseas have happened virtually from my offices in Parramatta – often in the middle of the night.
I take great pride in being able to tell you that the response from Australia to COVID-19 – on the economic, social and health front – has gained significant respect and admiration from all over the world.
So while our focus at home is supporting the economic recovery and strengthening our health systems, we are using our voice overseas to ensure that our values, our national interests and our perspectives are a key part of the global conversation on how the world emerges from the pandemic.
As Australia’s Minister for Women, I know that this pandemic has disproportionally impacted women and girls both here and abroad. Which is why our budget sets out an economic recovery plan to support Australian women back to work, with tailored and targeted support to help women overcome barriers and succeed. They have also been personal, impacting every household and business here in our Western Sydney community.
Earlier this year I launched my Western Sydney Economic Recovery Survey, sending it out to thousands of businesses. The survey asked technical questions about turnover, operations, staff. But it also asked what business owners were most proud of. Among the responses was an eye hospital in Westmead. And they told me that the thing they were most proud of in 2020 was that they were ‘surviving’.
Tonight, we have pause to reflect not only on the fact that you have all survived 2020, but that you thrived. And I cannot think of a more perfect forum than the Awards to recognise this fact. Since 1990, WSABE has been – and remains – the premier forum recognizing the achievements of businesses across Western Sydney.
I’ve done the maths. Over 500 awards have been issued since. These past recipients have stories to tell about their businesses’ journey. And taken together, their experiences also illuminate the rise of Western Sydney. Tonight, we add a new chapter. We add your stories.
Make no mistake you are important.
Stories of triumph. Of resilience. Of determination. Of some failures, I’m sure, as well. But also, especially so this year, of success against the odds.
I consider the fact that I both live and work across Western Sydney as a badge of honor. And so should you. After all, we have so much to be proud of.
This is one of the most vibrant communities in the country reflecting the best of Australia’s cohesive and multicultural society. We are also the third-largest economy in Australia, stretching from the Hawkesbury and Blue Mountains to Parramatta and down to Wollondilly. And we are a jobs powerhouse.
Every indicator tells us that Western Sydney will be the growth epicentre of NSW, and indeed, Australia. Providing the essential services and infrastructure that our region needs are core business for both the Morrison and Berejiklian governments. Delivering the Western Sydney Airport is a clear example of this.
But getting this right is only half the story. We know that eight out of every 10 jobs in Australia are in the private sector. And these are predominantly created by small and family businesses. Setting up our region for success absolutely relies on a strong business community.
So, make no mistake: you are part of the exceptional growth that is underpinning our region – that is forging shared prosperity, that is vital to our economic recovery from the pandemic.
Yes, 2020 has been rough. But we have reason to hope, and we have reason to celebrate. To be a WSABE nominee in 2020 is special.
It is an acknowledgment of the sheer determination, hard work and passion that each of you, whether you are a business owner or staff member, has displayed in abundance. And for that, you can be so very, very proud.