Big business posse shadows PM to pitch for Indonesian trade
Some of Australia's most powerful business leaders are looking to boost their exposure to Indonesia's fast-growing economy, joining Prime Minister Tony Abbott's first trip overseas since the election.
The heads of Australia's biggest banks, including Commonwealth Bank's Ian Narev and ANZ's Mike Smith, and Telstra chairman Catherine Livingstone met with Indonesian counterparts on Tuesday.
Mr Abbott extended the invitation to the high-powered leaders following his electoral win.
Despite recent economic jitters in the region, Australian business is focusing increasingly on Indonesia, which is on track to break into the world's 10 biggest economies by 2025. It is expected to create 90 million new consumers by 2030.
Other high-powered names travelling in the delegation included Macquarie Bank's Nicholas Moore, Insurance Australia Group's Mike Wilkins and Visy Group executive chairman Anthony Pratt.
Jennifer Westacott, chief executive of the Business Council of Australia, said Indonesia presented "immense opportunities" for Australian companies in industries such as financial services, health, agriculture, infrastructure and telecommunications.
"Tony Abbott has sent a very clear message on his first overseas trip, to Indonesia, that Australia is open for business and wanting to engage more effectively within our region," Ms Westacott said on Tuesday. "Including Australian business leaders in the trip shows we are serious about stronger trade and investment with Indonesia, and that we understand the huge opportunities for both countries from closer engagement and co-operation."
A spokesman for Insurance Australia Group said Mr Wilkins had been invited to join the delegation.
"We've said for a long time that Indonesia is a target market for us," the spokesman said.
"We've got a representative office in Jakarta and for a long time we've been saying we're trying to do a deal over there around the $100 million mark. Indonesia is certainly a country that IAG would like to have a stronger affiliation with."
The trip comes after the Business Council released its so-called economic action plan in the lead-up to the election, calling on the next federal government to focus more on relations with Indonesia.
This plan included establishing a high-level chief executive dialogue. "And this trip gets us off to a great start," Ms Westacott said.
A spokesman from Mr Abbott's office confirmed that the chief executives had been invited, and that Mr Abbott was the one who decided that he wanted them to accompany him to Indonesia. "He invited them some time over the last weeks," the spokesman said.