Australia’s UK ambassador says his country is ready to flood Yorkshire with major new investment - but he warned infrastructure improvements are critical to the region’s global ambitions.
Alexander Downer AC spoke to the Yorkshire Post during a visit to the historic Hainsworth’s mill in Pudsey yesterday as part of a trip to promote trade between Yorkshire and Australia.
He said he was “delighted” to see the wool industry “still thriving” in the county, adding that Australia has “a very special relationship with West Yorkshire”.
“West Yorkshire was really the original driver for the Australian economy, going back into the very early 19th century when our Marino sheep started to develop, and this was the market, right here,” he said.
“And it’s remarkable to see, all these years later, the industry still thriving. To go around the mill, and to see Australia’s wool here, is very exciting.”
Hainsworth fabric, as well as containing Australian imported wool, is also exported for use in uniforms for the Australian army.
Mr Downer said the aim of the trip was to drive better economic relations with Yorkshire, adding that the region is a massive draw for potential foreign investors.
“Australia is a huge investor in the UK, but that investment is significantly in the South East,” he explained.
“What interests us about Yorkshire is it’s cheaper to invest here than in the South East, where prices are becoming exorbitant.
“Yorkshire is quite an attractive product for Australian investors.
“There’s a lot of Australian interest in investing in infrastructure and retail - Gatwick Airport, Thames Water and Westfield are Australian owned.
“You would get a wide variety of companies.”
He warned there were “clearly issues of infrastructure links with the South East and other parts of the North.” and said the HS2 and HS3 high speed links would be a “Godsend” to the region when they come,
A better, bigger airport would also help make “a critical difference” in the region’s global appeal, he added.
“It strikes me, as an outsider, that investment in infrastructure is going to be critical for you.
“You have all the advantages of a strong UK economy. You don’t want to waste that opportunity because of a lack investment in infrastructure.”