Mr SOUTHWICK (Caulfield) — I rise today to address a matter to the Minister for Innovation, Services and Small Business. The matter I wish to raise concerns Victoria’s trade relationship with the start-up nation of Israel. The action I seek is for the minister to update the house on the next steps to implement the newly announced Victoria-Israel Science Innovation and Technology scheme (VISITS) and explain how the program will be progressed in the near future.
Growing connections between Victoria and Israel has been a passion of mine for many years, and I am pleased to have been able to progress this in my time in this place. Last year the minister asked me to chair a review of the Victoria-Israel trade relationship and the potential for future growth. The recently announced scheme is an outcome of this review.
VISITS builds on the former Victoria-Israel Science Innovation and Technology program, which was introduced by the previous government, and I acknowledge its commitment to this relationship. I wish to take this opportunity to thank the members of the review committee: the chancellor of Monash University, Dr Alan Finkel, AM; the chairman of the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce, Leon Kempler, OAM; the deputy chief of mission at the Israeli embassy, Meir Itzchaki; and Ethy Levy from the Israel Trade Commission.
The strength of Victoria’s relationship with Israel culturally and commercially, combined with Israel’s reputation as a global centre of innovation, makes a scheme like VISITS a natural fit. This new program will encourage Victorian companies to visit Israel and explore potential opportunities to collaborate. This trade relationship is one that makes an incredible amount of sense economically. On a per capita basis Israel has the highest amount of venture capital of any country in the world — truly a start-up nation.
Similarly, despite accounting for only 3 per cent of Australia’s land mass, Victoria is responsible for 24 per cent of Australia’s economic activity. According to Invest Victoria, our state’s economy is bigger than those of Singapore, Hong Kong and New Zealand.
I want to acknowledge at this point the determination of a number of ministers across the government to expand our trade relationships with other countries, including India and China. Victoria and Israel are close culturally, and now they are going to get even closer economically. I repeat my call for the minister to update the house on the VISITS and how this trade program will boost Victoria economically. The VISITS acronym builds on the first point of the four-stage approach, which is to visit Israel. As is said, you do not know unless you go.
We all know that visiting through a trade mission — being able to experience innovation and see it firsthand and meeting with other organisations that have been able to start businesses from the beginning — gives us an opportunity to learn and hopefully build relationships between Victoria and Israel. I look forward to hearing more about how the minister intends to implement and roll out this program to ensure its success.