WHEN Tony Abbott declared Australia open for business during his euphoric election night victory speech last year, he was foreshadowing a not-so-subtle challenge for one of his key cabinet members, Andrew Robb.
Within a few short months, the Trade and Investment Minister would be lunching in Singapore with six potential investors managing $1.2 trillion dollars between them in sovereign wealth funds.
But with only one of them currently investing $200 billion in Australia, his challenge is selling the nation’s business strengths and opportunities, to attract the other $1 trillion locally, including injecting foreign funds to grow Australian agriculture and agribusiness.
In opposition, Mr Robb carried a heavy work load as the Shadow Finance Minister and chair of the Coalition’s policy development committee, where his work ethic combined with effective stakeholder consultation, was highly rated.
At one stage, Julie Bishop lobbied to retain both of her shadow portfolios in Trade and Foreign Affairs, should the Coalition win government, but that move failed to eventuate.
Ms Bishop was eventually appointed Foreign Affairs Minister in Mr Abbott’s first ministry while Mr Robb was given the triple whammy of Trade, Investment and Tourism.
As the minister responsible for tourism, Mr Robb doesn’t wear the official title of Tourism Minister but that portfolio has been moved into one of his agencies, Austrade, to support the new government’s focus on international tourism.
Understanding the weight of his key challenge to sell Australia’s strengths to the world, the former National Farmers’ Federation boss and Victorian Liberal MP has wasted no time making strong inroads and goes about his task without an assistant minister or parliamentary secretary.
Since the nation’s 69th ministry was sworn in last September, he’s attended 27 investment roundtable meetings in 10 different countries throughout the world.
He spends two-thirds of his time abroad on government business and is often accompanied by farming and agribusiness leaders seeking opportunities to boost Australian food and fibre exports.
Robb on trade"s front foot