The Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum: Promoting Shared Prosperity

By Ann Sherry, Executive Chairman, Carnival Australia

Australia and New Zealand are more than neighbours – shared values, a history of collaboration, and a degree of economic integration that is admired around the world make us partners whose future and prosperity are intimately linked.  The strength of the bilateral relationship has been built on the good work of many, and foremost among the organisations making an important contribution is the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum (ANZLF).

In my own career, I have been able to track the positive impact of the ANZLF on bilateral business to business engagement, both at the regulatory harmonisation level, and in promoting face to face interaction that has strengthened commercial bonds across the Tasman.

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In 2002, when I began as CEO Westpac New Zealand, trans-Tasman commercial issues were a thorn in the side of business with the vision to span the Tasman.  Notwithstanding the improvements that had been delivered by the trans-Tasman Travel Arrangement and the Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Agreement, there remained many impediments: Australian and New Zealand regulators tended to co-operate on an ad hoc basis and, in some cases, hardly communicated at all; and employment laws made talent movement in either direction difficult.  At the time, the rhetoric of
co-operation was present, but its reality was thin on the ground.  It was therefore no accident that the Australia New Zealand Leadership Forum was launched in 2004.

Fortunately for the prosperity of both countries, much has changed.  Today, I am happy to report sensible, necessary economic integration has been greatly advanced through continued pursuit of the Single Economic Market agenda.  Regulatory harmonisation has improved, enabling talent, innovation and capital to flow more smoothly across the Tasman – although mutual recognition of imputation credits would help it even more.  Business has been able to grow in an increasingly shared and expanding market.  Together, our companies have grown the economic pie, benefiting the citizens of both countries.

The spirit of trans-Tasman co-operation, built on the recognition of our shared interests, has fostered a commercial and regulatory framework that has delivered outcomes that are greater than the sum of our parts.

As I have mentioned, I have seen and admired the positive contribution the ANZLF has made to this remarkable state of affairs.  While the impact of the ANZLF on bilateral commercial relations has been broad, the power of the ANZLF as an enabler has been particularly strong in two key areas.

Its vision and flexibility as an organisation to identify and respond to contemporary issues in a world of dramatic change.  The ANZLF’s adaptability and capacity to address commercially relevant and/or emerging issues has enabled a much greater focus on industry sectors and innovation where we can leverage relative trans-Tasman strengths to face a competitive and changing global landscape; and the buy-in of senior leaders in government and industry from both countries makes the ANZLF the premier platform for engaging Prime Ministers and Ministers for targeted and considered discussions of the issues confronting industry.  In an increasingly integrated global economy where few commercial issues can be resolved in one country alone, or one ministerial portfolio, the ability to engage across government directly with Ministers makes the ANZLF unique, and uniquely effective.

It is this access, adaptability, vision and focus on frank discussions that are the hallmark of the Forum and its sustained success over the last fourteen years.

That is why I have stayed involved with the ANZLF as I have changed industries.  To me, it remains the indispensable forum for promoting our shared prosperity.

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Ann Sherry is the Australian co-Chair of the ANZLF.  The Forum is being held in Sydney on 2 March.

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