Baird: ‘Next week in Jerusalem’

Mike Baird. Photo: Noel Kessel.

MEDICAL cannabis, cutting-edge technologies and Israeli breakfasts … just some of the items on the agenda for NSW Premier Mike Baird when he visits Israel next week.

Baird, the first NSW Premier in living memory to visit the Jewish State, will lead a delegation of business, research and public sector leaders as part of the mission, organised by the Australia–Israel Chamber of Commerce and the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies. Speaking ahead of his visit, Baird, said he is “very excited” about this “long overdue” trip.

“Where Israel sits in terms of the start-up world, it’s right at the top. What can we learn in an area that is growing here? Obviously medical cannabis is again an area that Israel has been a world leader in for a long time. It’s a space that we’re new in, but obviously very committed to making a difference in,” he said.

Stating that medical cannabis, the technology and start-up sector and cyber-security are “all critical issues for us right now”, he said, “Learning from a lot of the opportunities and experience that is already on the ground in Israel is a key part of the trip.”

During the visit, Baird will meet with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and Health Minister Yaakov Litzman.

“There’s a fantastic opportunity to learn from and meet with, and build relationships with, the political leadership; business collaboration together with academic,” he said.

Baird will also visit Yad Vashem and the Kotel. “To be in places that are so significant across many parts of history is going to be very special,” he said. “People have told me about the Wailing Wall and what that is like to be there. I can’t wait to experience that.”

He told The AJN he is particularly looking forward to trying traditional Israeli breakfasts. “I’ve heard about the breakfasts. They’re big,” he joked. “I’m open to try anything.”

Speaking about the “significant opportunities” that lie ahead, Baird said, “We want to collaborate with some of the best minds, companies that are operating in Israel. We can do much more together than we can alone. There’s a lot that we can learn.

“I see the long-term potential. If we get this right there will be many things that we work on not just in the next few months but over the many years to come.”

Cyber-security will be discussed during the visit at a roundtable to be co-chaired by NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione.

In addition to visiting Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, Baird will spend a day in the West Bank, meeting Palestinian leaders and seeing firsthand how Australian aid dollars are working for local communities.

EVAN ZLATKIS