Four centuries Connection


Australia and The Netherlands

The Economy

Half the size of Tasmania, with a population of 16.5 million, The Netherlands may be best known for its tulip and the huge bulb and cut flower global export business which is worth around $4 billion per annum. Services and Information Technology are among the fastest growing sectors.

The Netherlands is one of the world’ s 15 largest economies. In 1998 with a 3.6% GDP growth, it outstripped the EU’’ average of 1.6%. More than 50% of its GDP is generated from industrial activities and services delivered to other counties.Unemployment declined to 3% in 1998 (EU average 10.2%) .

Holland, the common name given to the country, has five seaports and Rotterdam is the world’ s largest. Schiphol airport is Europe’ s third largest for freight traffic and handled 34.4 million passengers in that year. It is the fourth in the list of top transport countries, and has 6.6% of all international transport.

Within the EU, Dutch freight companies are among the largest in Europe, accounting for some 40% of transport by sea and 25% of transport by land.

In the early 1980’s Holland was the ugly duckling of Europe. Public finances were out of control and 100,000 jobs were lost annually. That represented twice the rate of the EU as a whole. Since then, important policy changes have significantly altered the nature of the Dutch economy.

  • public spending was lowered from 60% of GDP to less than 50 %, equal to the EU average
  • due largely to wage moderation agreements, the number of jobs increased by 1.6% pa between 1984 and 1996
  • social welfare assistance has been reduced and eligibility tightened, giving greater incentive to work


The Netherlands is Australia’s second largest source of foreign direct investment from the EU (behind only the UK) and Australia‘s fourth largest

The VOC ship Zuytdorp, on which he travelled, ran onto the cliffs in Western Australia - well to the north of Perth.
Since then researchers have searched the site for indications in language that Dutchmen had been there and the findings were controversial.

A now deceased half-blood aboriginal, Ken Mallard, was found, in a laboratory test to be a carrier of the PV Gene.

In spite of this definite link, it is clear that Dutch sailors did survive and that the reason that so little cultural transfer took place is because they were mostly men.
Dr. Nonja Peters, Anthrpologist, states that women were considered to be culture bearers while the men might have passed on some practical skills.

There can be little doubt that this phase of history needs to be recognised, as much as a grave would once this was found. There is a link with the VOC and it seems appropriate that this facet of 17th century Dutch exploits should receive some recognition in the VOC 2002 Celebrations in The Netherlands.

We would like readers’ responses on this isssue.
Do you feel the way we do about our shared history?

Dutch investment has quadrupled since 1985 reaching $12.2 billion in 1998.

More than 70 major Dutch businesses are established in Australia, these include Shell, Philips, KLM, Unilever, KPN, TNT Post, publishers CCH and A’dam Airport Schiphol being part owner of Brisbane Airport.

Investment companies operating in Australia include ABN AMRO, the Rabo Bank, and BBL Aust. (formerly ING Barings active in corporate, treasury, acquisition and trade finance.

Of the top 2000 companies in Australia, 35 have their headquarters in the Netherlands.

An estimated 45,000 Australians work in positions generated by Dutch investments with an estimated 5000 Australians employed on products and services exported to the Netherlands.


The Netherlands is an established Gateway to Europe. Its excellent infrastructure, transport links and multi-lingual workforce give easy access to the 350 million strong European market. Government policy is conducive to trade and investment, with a general openness to Australia.

Australian exports to the Netherlands jumped by 40% in 1998 to $927m with imports from the Netherlands valued at $905m. A significant increase took place in the value of Australian imports from Holland of medical equipment, computer parts and food processing machines and this trend has continued.

The major export from Australia to Holland is coal, with an increase in aluminium, followed by pigments, paints and varnishes and medicaments. Computer parts and electrical machinery and appliances are also showing growth.

From October 1999 the new AirFrance and KLM joint venture operates six flights a week from Sydney to Europe- all with KLM’s latest B747-400 aircraft and crew. Three of these flights are direct to A’dam and three to Milan.

Ships under the Netherlands flag including those of P&O Nedlloyd play a significant role in the bilateral trade.

There is an increasing awareness in the Dutch commercial community of opportunities in Australia- as well as being a base for doing business with Asia.

Published by the Consul-General of the Netherlands, Sydney 

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