Hong Kong, Australian Business Association

01 March, 2017

The Hon. J.S. LEE ( 16:48 ): I move: That this council -

  1. Congratulates the Hong Kong - Australia Business Association-SA Chapter (HKABA-SA) on achieving 15 successful years of its business awards program; 
  2. Acknowledges the wonderful work of current and past committee members in the development of strong economic and cultural ties with Hong Kong/China; 
  3. Recognises the economic and social contributions made by HKABA-SA to South Australian business and the multicultural community; and 
  4. Highlights the entrepreneurship and success stories of past award recipients and shines the spotlight on South Australian companies and organisations that are successfully trading in Hong Kong and China.

Today, it is my privilege to move the motion standing in my name in the parliament to congratulate the Hong Kong-Australia Business Association-SA Chapter on achieving 15 successful years of its business awards program in South Australia.

I wish to thank and acknowledge all the current and past presidents and committees of Hong Kong ABA-SA for their leadership of the association. Their hard work and contribution is a true testament to the continuous success and advancement of Hong Kong ABA-SA over the years. His Excellency the Hon. Hieu Van Le, Governor of South Australia, is a patron of Hong Kong ABA-SA, and I would like to acknowledge his wonderful support of the association over the years.

Nationally, the Hong Kong-Australia Business Association was established by the Hong Kong Trade Development Council in 1987 as a conduit to reinforce economic and cultural ties between Hong Kong, China and Australia. Australia's policy towards Hong Kong is underpinned by a substantial commercial interest and by the presence of a large Australian community living in Hong Kong.

Australia's commercial interests in Hong Kong are extensive and range from banking, accounting, legal, engineering, information technology services, retail and general trading. Some 90,000 Australians are resident in Hong Kong, while around 550 Australian companies are based there, and a further 1,000 Australian companies have representative offices in Hong Kong. We ought to be incredibly proud that Australia is one of the major English-speaking study destinations for students from Hong Kong. In the last two years I have hosted international students from Hong Kong as my interns. They are delightful young people who are keen learners, just like many of our international students.

My long-term association with Hong Kong ABA-SA started almost two decades ago. The business awards program has since become an important flagship event on the Hong Kong ABA-SA chapter calendar. Thanks to the hard work and determination of successive presidents, chairs and committee members, the business awards program has gone from strength to strength over the last 15 years.

The business awards in the early days started out with the key focus of shining the spotlight on South Australian companies that were successfully doing business in Hong Kong and later on extended to companies who were using Hong Kong as the gateway to China. Honourable members may not realise that I was the inaugural chair of the Hong Kong ABA business awards. Just like the old famous Chinese saying, 'A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step'.

Please allow me the indulgence to describe how that single step started. In 2000, a small group of us, consisting of Victor Moo, who was the president, Norman Sheun, who was the immediate past president, Patrick Ho and I, who were the vice presidents at the time, travelled to Sydney in the year 2000 to attend the New South Wales chapter of the Hong Kong ABA awards to learn about the awards proceedings so that we had the right framework to run the same awards program for the SA chapter.

The SA committee decided to introduce the business awards in 2001. I was fortunate enough to be entrusted by three senior leaders, Victor Moo, Norman Sheun and Patrick Ho and the whole committee, to chair and manage the inaugural Hong Kong ABA awards program for South Australia. Little did I know at the time that there was so much work involved. Two important events took place in order to deliver the first Hong Kong ABA business awards program in South Australia. At the end of 2000, most of the committee travelled with the SA delegation to the International Hong Kong Forum, organised by the Trade Development Council of Hong Kong and hosted by the Hong Kong government.

During that forum, we enjoyed wonderful hospitality, including the robust conference program, Hong Kong harbour cruise and a VIP cocktail reception at the Hong Kong Government House. At the time, three leaders, Victor, Norman and Patrick, plus John McLachlan, a senior captain of the SA chapter of Hong Kong ABA who happens to be the father of the Hon. Andrew McLachlan, were all there in Hong Kong. We were there, and the committee wanted us, particularly me, to identify our very first keynote speaker for the inaugural business awards.

In the year 2000, the chairman of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council was Mr Peter Woo. At Hong Kong Government House, I pointed in the direction of Mr Peter Woo (who was a guest speaker that night) to Patrick Ho and Victor Moo and I said, 'Hey, Mr Woo would make an exceptional guest speaker for us, don't you think? Shall we ask him?' They looked at me in a funny way and said, 'Sure, why not? But don't be disappointed if he says no, because don't forget that South Australia is a small pond. He is a big fish and a very busy man.'

I was younger then—a lot younger then. The great thing about being young is that when you are young, you have nothing to fear. So, during the meet and greet session with Mr Peter Woo, I explained to him that South Australia was about to embark on its first exciting business awards. I thought he would be interested to become a part of it as the new chair for the Hong Kong Trade Development Council. I elaborated to Mr Woo that, with his substantial business background, the business community in Adelaide would be thrilled to meet someone of his calibre, and it would be a great honour to welcome him to beautiful Adelaide.

Mr Woo pondered my request in deep thought and provided a surprising response—certainly a lot better than I thought. Mr Woo reached out and shook my hand and said, 'Jing Lee, if you build it, I will come.' In shock, I asked for clarification. I said, 'Mr Woo, are you saying that if I go ahead and organise these business awards, you will come to Adelaide, no questions asked?' He nodded with confirmation and gave me his business card to make contact.

For those who may not know who Peter Woo is, please allow me to give our honourable members his short bio. Peter Woo Kwong-ching is a prominent Hong Kong businessman. His past appointments included chairman of the Hong Kong Trade Development Council from 2000 to 2007, and he was chairman of the Wheelock and Company Limited and The Wharf Holdings Limited until May 2015. He was also chairman of the council of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University from 1993 to 1997 and chairman of the Hong Kong Hospital Authority from 1995 to 2000. Last year, in Forbes magazine, Peter Woo was listed in the world's billionaires rankings, and was ranked 8th in Hong Kong's 50 Richest People list.

Mr Woo's diversified interests are reflected in his businesses, focusing on real estate development in Hong Kong, China and Singapore. The group owns several investment properties such as Harbour City and Times Square in Hong Kong, as well as operating other businesses such as i-Cable Communications, Modern Terminals Limited and Marco Polo hotels. For those interested in luxury retail goods, he also owns Lane Crawford and the premier fashion house Joyce. Mr Woo serves on the advisory boards of various Fortune 500 companies.

When you think about it, having someone like Peter Woo as the first keynote speaker for the Hong Kong ABA South Australia business awards, the program was off to a flying start. Mr Woo and his wife, Bessie Pao, travelled in their private jet to Adelaide 15 years ago. It was a great kudos to Hong Kong ABA-SA and subsequently the association was recognised by CITCSA and awarded the International Chamber of the Year for organising the very successful inaugural business awards.

In addition to securing a dynamic business leader from Hong Kong to speak at the first Hong Kong business awards, back in Adelaide the wheels were set in motion for us to secure a major sponsor. That major sponsor was none other than Clipsal. As all honourable members will know, Clipsal was an iconic South Australian electronics accessories company. The Hong Kong ABA business awards provided a fantastic platform to involve a local giant like Robert Gerard to be the major sponsor.

Clipsal had all the right reasons to be involved as the major sponsor for the business awards. Robert Gerard is a smart and astute businessman and he seized the opportunity to align Clipsal with the awards as a way of giving back to the business community as well as demonstrating Clipsal's strong presence in Hong Kong and China. For those who are interested to know how sponsorship from Clipsal was secured, if you were expecting a long and drawn-out process, such as how government grants are usually processed, then you would be very disappointed. It was one of the easiest sponsorship deals ever made.

I remember making an appointment to see Robert Gerard at Clipsal's Bowden site. When I arrived there with Norman Sheun and Victor Moo it was around morning tea time. Robert Gerard was walking the factory floor in his usual way. When we arrived at Clipsal Robert Gerard said hello to us, in his larger-than-life personality, and his quick question was, 'So, you mob are here to get some sponsorship money from me, hey?' I said, 'Yes, indeed.' He asked how much we wanted and we quickly agreed to a sponsorship amount. He took his chequebook out of his drawer and wrote a cheque personally, we shook hands and agreed on the terms without signing any formal papers. The deal was done with a golden handshake in less than 10 minutes. Robert Gerard was invited onto the judging panel and he accepted without hesitation. Jamie McKeough, managing director of William Buck, offered its boardroom for us to conduct the award judging process.

Some honourable members may be interested to know that the inaugural awards gala dinner event held on 18 August 2001 was launched by one of our esteemed colleagues, the Hon. Rob Lucas, a former treasurer and minister for industry and trade at the time. With some of the most powerful names behind the inaugural awards, Peter Woo as the guest speaker, Hong Kong TDC, Hong Kong ETO and the Hong Kong tourism board providing full support, it became a sensational success, paving the way for further achievements over the last 15 years.

It was an incredible privilege to witness the hardworking presidents and committee members who worked diligently to ensure the Hong Kong ABA-SA business awards have grown from strength to strength. I would like to thank the current President, Wayne Chao, Darren Wilson, Frank Bueti and the organising committee for giving me the opportunity to be the keynote speaker for the 2016 business awards presentation gala dinner, which was held last year on Friday 14 October.

As always, the business awards night attracted strong support from the business community. The current president, Mr Wayne Chao, was elected in 2016. Wayne is a driven young entrepreneur who is the founder of I Age Media and director of several companies focusing on facilitating cultural and business ties between Australia and China. I would like to place on the record my thanks to Wayne for his wonderful work as president.

Prior to Wayne Chao, the immediate past president was the late Mark Higgs. I pay special tribute to a dear friend, Michael Higgs, who has served the association with distinction. It was with much sadness that we farewelled a great friend last year. Michael William Higgs was a proud South Australian born in Adelaide on 18 March 1967. He passed away on his birthday on 18 March 2016 at the age of 49 years—much too young to leave us.

He was a devoted husband to Rosanna, and loving and proud father of Luke and Adam. He was a special and adored son of Michael Higgs senior and Frances. Mike Higgs senior had a very close bond with his son. The day of the funeral was an incredibly emotional day for all of us. I could not hold back my tears when I hugged Rosanna, Mike's father and Mike's children on the day. It was such a sad loss to his family and the community of South Australia.

Everyone who had the pleasure to work with Mike has valued his input and respects him as a wonderful friend and community leader. Mike was an incredible asset and a highly driven president of the Hong Kong ABA-SA. He dedicated much of his experience, business skills and time to promote and advance the association in South Australia.

He served as president for nearly three consecutive terms and, even though there was so much responsibility associated with the role, he did it with grace and diligence, and he loved every minute of his time at Hong Kong ABA-SA. His legacy and commitment to the association lives on within the committee and the members.

It was incredibly fitting to see the committee create a Mark Higgs Entrepreneur Award for the 2016 Hong Kong ABA business awards last year. This award embodies the objectives behind Mike's presidency, and we know that his spirit of leadership will be forever remembered and honoured by the association and the business community in South Australia, as well as in Hong Kong and China.

Hong Kong ABA-SA, over the years, has attracted some dedicated leaders. I take this opportunity to formally acknowledge the past presidents of the Hong Kong ABA as they have always played a significant role in the promotion and advancement of the association and also the improved opportunities for many South Australian businesses.

Victor Moo was the first president of Hong Kong ABA-SA and held the presidency twice between 1997 and 2002, and a second time from 2005 to 2008. At the 2016 awards Victor was presented the life member award—very well deserved.

Norman Sheun was the second president of Hong Kong ABA-SA between 2002 and 2004. Both Victor and Norman served Hong Kong ABA-SA very well and helped pave the way for the success of the association in years to come.

Mr Patrick Ho has a generous nature and is a strong leader. A successful business migrant from Hong Kong, Patrick Ho was the president of Hong Kong ABA-SA between 2008 and 2013. Until this very day he is still very much involved in guiding and supporting the association.

Another great contributor to Hong Kong ABA-SA is Darren Wilson, the Vice President of Hong Kong ABA and the chair of the business awards program for a number of years. Darren has worked extremely hard to deliver a successful business awards program, such as organising the intimate boardroom lunches at ANZ. Steven Marshall, state Liberal leader, and the Hon. Rob Lucas and I have attended and spoken at these boardroom lunches, and they are great initiatives for the association to network and engage with business leaders.

Another quiet achiever and contributor to Hong Kong ABA-SA is Frank Bueti, coordinator of the international events and co-business awards chair. Frank is a humble businessman who has introduced and established amazing initiatives and connections between South Australia and Hong Kong.

Frank is truly an inspiring individual who has done so much for others with compassion and humility and without asking for personal recognition. Frank's business skills, together with his enthusiastic attitude, help to attract new members to Hong Kong ABA, particularly from the food and wine industry. Hong Kong and China are two growing export markets for South Australia, and Hong Kong ABA was very fortunate to have someone as capable and as hardworking as Frank to be the international events coordinator.

Other long-term committee members I would also like to acknowledge are Tony De Corso, Becky Houston, Frank Cutillo, Tai Nguyen, Susan Lee, Attilio Cavuoto, Cheng Chang, Natasha Parsons, Andrew Faulkner, Ian Mathison, Victoria Li Hong, Chris Vounasis, Ryan Gu and Jim Stylianopoulos. All of these members have a great passion for building bridges between the people and communities of Hong Kong and South Australia and ought to be congratulated.

It was a great honour to be invited to be on the judging panel for the 2016 Hong Kong ABA business awards. The judging panel is hand selected by the committee and renewed every year. The panel discusses, assesses and chooses the worthy winners based on the criteria of individual nominees. I place my congratulations on the record for the 2016 award winners in parliament today. Mr Adam Bannister received the 2016 Exporting Services to Hong Kong/China Award on behalf of Minter Ellison. Minter Ellison is an internationally acclaimed law firm which provides expert services in addressing the challenges of a globalised marketplace.

Mr Geoff Hardy from Wines by Geoff Hardy received the 2016 Exporting Goods to Hong Kong/China Award. Geoff Hardy is a dedicated South Australian producing some of the most premium South Australian wines who is developing strong connections with wine importers and clients in Hong Kong and China. Mr Michael Zhang from Aurees Tiles received the award for Importing Goods from Hong Kong/China. Aurees Tiles has a strong focus on providing a vast range of high-quality imported tiles, along with expert advice and excellent customer service.

Mr Simon Hou from DG Real Estate received the Young Professional of the Year Award. Throughout Simon's career in real estate, he has excelled in providing exceptionally high-quality services to the Chinese community in South Australia. Mr Nicho Zhongwei Teng from Haneco Lighting Australia received the Mike Higgs Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Haneco Lighting Australia celebrated their fifth anniversary this year which I attended. The company is a specialist LED lighting manufacturing company, and it has a great presence throughout Australia.

Ms Ling Sun from AOJI Education Adelaide received the Women in Business Award. Ling is a dedicated individual who provides an exceptional educational service to international students from Hong Kong and Asia. Past award winners have advanced and built strong international links with mainland China and Hong Kong, and their cultural and business links remain strong in helping other exporters to explore international markets. Some of the past winners included the Confucius Institute and the Adelaide Festival Centre, particularly the OzAsia Festival. They are noteworthy examples of great organisations in South Australia doing exceptionally well in the international markets.

In conclusion, I would like to congratulate once again Hong Kong ABA on their outstanding achievements in terms of building successful economic and cultural ties with Hong Kong and China. Their economic and social contributions for the South Australian community have been exceptional in every way. I commend this motion to the chamber.

Debate adjourned on motion of Hon. T.J. Stephens.