Year in review
It gives me great pleasure to present Austrade’s annual report for 2019–20 in my capacity as Acting Chief Executive Officer. This year has without doubt been a very challenging one, marked by the bushfires in late 2019 and early 2020 that affected large parts of eastern Australia. The images of burnt flora and fauna, combined with the widespread damage to infrastructure, flagged the beginning of an extremely difficult year for our tourism sector.
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic expanded that disruption to all sectors of our economy. From international education, services and manufactured goods through to food and agricultural products—Australian companies have had to adapt to find new markets, new means of delivering their products, and new ways of doing business. This has affected not just Australia’s export economy, but also our ability to attract productive foreign investment.
During 2019–20, Austrade has stood with our clients, and helped them to adapt to this new world. We’ve worked with our clients and other stakeholders to develop new products and measures, such as the International Freight Assistance Mechanism, which is helping to re-establish the airfreight links on which so many of our exporters depend. In response to the bushfires, we managed the delivery of Regional Tourism Bushfire Recovery Grants to help the affected communities recover. We’ve also developed a support package for zoos and aquariums to provide animal welfare support to keep the animals essential to those attractions alive during the pandemic. And our consular staff have worked alongside our colleagues in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in helping Australians affected by the COVID-related travel disruption to return to Australia.
While we’ve been developing and delivering new products and measures, we’ve also been embedding, refining and improving our existing services. We’ve been continually testing our services with our clients, and responding to their needs by introducing improvements. Throughout the year, we’ve placed consistent emphasis on helping our clients achieve outcomes that shift the dial. We’ve been focused on encouraging outcomes that result in significant export success for our clients— dollars, jobs or strategic success—both in exports and in inward investment into Australia. That focus will continue, and will sharpen.
I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the work of Dr Stephanie Fahey, who announced her resignation as Austrade’s CEO shortly before the end of the reporting period. Since her appointment in early 2017, Stephanie launched Austrade on its journey of service improvement by responding to clients’ needs, and worked tirelessly during her tenure towards those goals.
Finally, I would like to pay tribute to Austrade’s staff. It’s been an extremely challenging year for them, but they have adapted admirably to all the changes that 2019–20 produced. They have provided our clients with seamless service, often delivered from their homes. They have produced creative solutions to our clients’ changing needs, and have supported each other with resilience and professionalism.
For the immediate future, our focus will clearly be on Australia’s economic recovery. In tourism, where Austrade has carriage of policy development, we will continue to deliver on the Government’s plan for recovery of the tourism industry. We look forward to implementing the recommendations of the independent review of our Export Market Development Grants scheme. We will continue to operate schemes such as the International Freight Assistance Mechanism so that our exporters can reach their markets.
We will keep working closely with our clients to refine our services, and help expand our clients’ reach to new markets, new customers and even to new products. We will maintain our emphasis on outcomes that make a difference—making the best use of our resources to increase Australia’s economic prosperity.
Acting Chief Executive Officer