|Minister||Robin Scott MP|
|Countries visited||Israel, Palestinian Territories, France, United Kingdom, United States|
|Date of travel||17 September to 3 October 2015|
|No of official travel days (including date of departure and date of return)||17|
|Accompanying ministerial staff|
|Accompanied by spouse in an official capacity||No|
|Funding source||Department of Treasury and Finance|
|Airfares (including taxes and fees)||$17,694|
|Accommodation (including taxes and fees)||$8,883|
|Other expenses (includes surface travel and travel allowances)||$17,371|
|Travel cost for minister and staff||$43,948|
|Are the above costs final and complete?||No. Several invoices and an insurance claim are still outstanding.|
Purpose of travel
I visited Israel, the Palestinian Territories, France, the UK and the USA in September/October 2015. The primary context of this travel was the work on social cohesion, community resilience and countering violent extremism being undertaken by the Victorian Government.
I undertook this work in my role as Minister for Multicultural Affairs, and as a member of the Social Cohesion and Community Resilience Ministerial Taskforce. Because of Victorian leadership on these issues, I was also invited to attend the CVE Leaders’ Summit held at the UN General Assembly, and to participate as a member of the Steering Committee of the Strong Cities Network.
I also undertook a series of meetings around trade, innovation and investment into Victoria, in my capacity as Minister for Finance.
The main objectives of the trip were:
To visit research institutes to discuss latest research findings with the world’s leading experts in the fields of CVE and social cohesion, with a particular focus on the roles of social media and technology. I held discussions with:
- International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (Israel)
- Demos (UK)
- International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence, Kings College (ICSR) (UK)
- Quilliam Foundation (UK)
- Moonshot CVE (UK)
- Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies (RUSI) (UK)
- The Institute for Strategic Dialogue (UK)
To visit non-government organisations to learn about community-led initiatives that are promoting social cohesion, especially through the re-engagement of marginalised youth at risk of being radicalised to violence. I held discussions with:
- Various religious leaders from Judaism and Islam (Israel)
- The Pontifical Institute, Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center (Israel)
- London Tigers (UK)
- The Radical Middle Way (UK)
- Faith Associates and Barking Mosque complex (UK)
- Young New Yorkers (USA)
- Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality & Equality (USA)
To learn about other governments’ work in the fields of CVE and social cohesion. I held discussions with:
- Mayor of Abu Gosh (Israel)
- Advisor to Mayor for East Jerusalem Affairs (Israel)
- Ms Michel Biran (MK Labour Party MP)
- A member of the Palestinian Authority in the Palestinian Territories
- Ministry of the Interior (France)
- Counter Extremism Directorate, Home Office (UK)
- Integration & Faith, Department for Communities & Local Government (UK)
- 100 Resilient Cities (USA)
I participated in the:
- Leaders’ Summit on Countering ISIL and violent extremism (USA)
- Strong Cities Network launch and the inaugural steering committee meeting (USA)
To investigate trade and investment opportunities for Victoria. I held discussions with:
- Chief Scientist of Israel (Israel)
- Standard & Poors ratings agency (USA)
- Moelis investment bank (USA)
I spoke at:
- A Digital Learning in Victoria reception, to promote opportunities to invest in innovation and technology in Victoria.
Benefits of travel to the State of Victoria
Research and expertise
Significant relationships with world leading researchers in the fields of CVE and social cohesion were formed and strengthened. Important commitments to information-sharing and collaboration were made between Victoria and research institutes such as ICSR, Demos and Quilliam.
These relationships will be particularly important as Victoria explores options to use social media data to measure social indicators; and the use of social media to promote resilience, engagement and social cohesion.
Victoria’s current approach to preventing and countering violent extremism was discussed with world experts. Victoria’s draft Strategic Framework was presented and feedback sought. The visit confirmed that Victoria’s methodology and current priorities for action in this field are consistent with the best available research.
I learned of interesting and encouraging programs for communities and young people, particularly those led by faith-based communities or the not for profit sector. There are encouraging precedents for Victoria’s emphasis on community-led or co-created initiatives in early intervention and diversion for at-risk youth and the prevention of violent extremism.
In discussions with other government agencies and cities throughout the world, I gained insight into previous government programs from other countries, which have now been evaluated. There have been specific examples of well-intentioned programs having unanticipated, negative consequences for important community relationships. There are also cities among the Strong Cities Network from which Victoria could learn more, especially in relation to community engagement, early intervention and rehabilitation. These examples assist Victoria to assess risk, value for money and likely effectiveness when considering options for Victorian programs. Fellow members of the Steering Committee of the Strong Cities Network with whom I held in-depth discussions included the:
- Mayor of Aarhus, Denmark
- Mayor of Employment and Integration, Copenhagen, Denmark
- Mayor of Minneapolis, USA
- Mayor of Rotterdam, The Netherlands
These intergovernmental relationships are strategically important, and promote collaboration.
Trade, Investment and Innovation
The trade and investment parts of this trip provided valuable insight into Victoria’s position and priorities, relative to similar economies in the developed world. Moelis provided insight into the motivations and behaviours of private, individual investors.
The Digital Learning reception provided an opportunity to showcase Victoria’s innovations in education. Meeting with the Chief Scientist in Israel provided an interesting insight into Israel’s risk settings on the investment of public funds into innovative research.
It is important that the Community Resilience Unit, in its work supporting the Social Cohesion and Community Resilience Ministerial Taskforce, continues Victoria’s relationships with the research institutes visited on the trip.
In particular, Demos, Moonshot CVE and Quilliam will be important partners in Victoria’s research into effective strategies, measuring indicators and utilising social media to best advantage. Follow up discussions have already been held with these organisations.
Victoria has also formed a strategic partnership with the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, which provides secretariat to the Strong Cities Network.
Relationships such as those formed through 100 Resilient Cities and the Strong Cities Network are very valuable. Victoria’s ongoing participation in such networks will be important to maintaining our position as world leaders in creating and maintaining a diverse, cohesive and successful society.
It may be beneficial to hold further discussions with officers from other countries and cities, including Aarhus and Copenhagen in Denmark and Minneapolis in the USA, to learn more about their innovative methodology and initiatives for preventing violent extremism and promoting social cohesion.
There may be benefit for Victoria to further examine the commitment of public funds to research, and more closely examine its risk ratings. There may be a number of lessons Victoria could learn from Israel’s rise as a technological leader, in a relatively short period of time.
Reviewed 28 January 2019