Well thank you. Can I start by acknowledging my many State Parliamentary colleagues here and to you, the Honourable Elie Marouni, Member of Parliament in the Republic of Lebanon, a welcome. Can I also welcome your sister Nada Marouni to Australia; Consul-General, Monsignor and other religious leaders; Peter Maroon and all your committee; distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.

It’s a pleasure to be here this evening with you, representing the Prime Minister of Australia, the Honourable Malcolm Turnbull MP [applause] thank you, to help you celebrate the 80th anniversary of the Kataeb Party.

The Prime Minister is overseas as you know attending APEC Leaders’ Summit in Peru and he has asked me to read the following message on his behalf:

I send my greetings to everyone gathered to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the Lebanese Kataeb, and pay tribute to tonight’s special guests, His Grace Bishop Antoine Charbel Tarabay and The Honourable Elie Marouni, MP.

Lebanon and Australia enjoy friendly bilateral relations, underpinned by strong people-to-people links and our commitment to a number of common interest and values.

The Australian Government remains dedicated to Lebanon’s stability and prosperity and continues to explore opportunities to support these aims.

Tonight’s celebration offers a welcome opportunity to further strengthen the bonds between our nations and to recognise the contributions of the large and vibrant Australian Lebanese community in Australia.

I trust all attendees will have an enjoyable celebration, rich in optimism and shared pride.

The Honourable Malcolm Turnbull MP
Prime Minister of Australia [applause]

Can I also add my congratulations to you on the contribution your Party has made over the last 80 years, particularly in the promotion of democracy and Lebanese sovereignty.

I am sure that you welcome the election of President Michel Aoun in October 2016 and wish him and the people of Lebanon all the best.

We hope that under his leadership, the spring of Lebanon will find a renaissance of freedom. I’m sure that he enjoys the support of the wide spectrum of Lebanese society and that he will unite Lebanon, both those who voted for him and those who didn’t and I am sure that under his leadership, Lebanon will go on to find her proper place of a free and independent nation.

Can I take this opportunity to acknowledge the contribution that the Lebanese community in Australia has made and also mention, if I can, a number of things where Australia is lending support to Lebanon.

Whilst we are a long way from Lebanon and from many of the world’s troubles, we do feel close to the Lebanese people with courage and generosity, the land of the cedars is absorbing incredible stresses.

A nation of 4 million people hosting more than 1 million refugees deserves assistance.

We have provided more than $213 million in response to the humanitarian crisis in Syria, more than half of which has supported refugees and their host communities in neighbouring countries, including Lebanon.

We support the ‘No Lost Generation’ strategy to help make sure neither Lebanese nor refugee children miss out on an education during this difficult time.

Our support continues, with the 2016 budget three-year package, worth $220 million, in response to the crisis.

It builds on the support that we have given every year since 1951, and continue to provide, to the UN’s work with Palestinian refugees in Lebanon.

In 2015, we announced an additional intake of refugees and we hope that this will relieve the load on the neighbouring countries.

We recognise the response and the speeds of significant response. We stand beside Lebanon in the international anti-Daesh coalition.

Also, we cooperate in defence, in law and in counter-terrorism. We place officers of the Lebanese Armed Forces in international military training courses and we actually have Australian Defence Forces currently deployed to monitor the Lebanese-Israel border.

And can I particularly say to you Mr Marouni, one of the important things is to promote Lebanon and Australia’s prosperity and the things we do together is to increase our trade and investment. This is very, very important.

We have two centuries’ of experience in overcoming the tyranny of distance, and we hope to have closer ties with you and I would encourage your Party to look at how we can actually do this.

Can I thank you for inviting the Prime Minister this evening. It’s been a pleasure to represent him and I hope deep relations between our peoples continue for many years to come.

Thank you.

[Ends]

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