Thank you very, very much.
Distinguished guests; ladies and gentlemen.
Thank you Ambassador for your warm hospitality for us today, and it is really is a beautiful island and it certainly is, obviously, part of the heritage of this beautiful city.
Welcome to you all to today’s reception.
I am delighted to be here on my first official visit to Cambodia.
Australia’s integration with the dynamic Asian region is driving growth.
Ten of our top twelve export markets in 2015-16 were in Asia.
The ASEAN region is emerging as a significant market.
Within this context, our bilateral relationship with Cambodia is strong and long-standing.
In January 1952 – that is even older than me! – 65 years ago, Australia commenced the relationship with Cambodia.
We were one of the first countries to do so, almost two years before Cambodia gained independence from France.
This close friendship continues to define the relationship between our two countries.
Later today, I am meeting with the Foreign Minister and Minister for International Cooperation, and also having another, meeting again the Minister of the Council for the Development of Cambodia, whom I met in October last year in Canberra.
During my meeting, I will discuss how the relationship between Cambodia and Australia has grown from being one of a traditional donor and aid recipient to a development partnership.
For example, in 2016, we saw bipartisan two-way parliamentary exchanges, and we boosted our cooperation to tackle illicit drugs, transnational crime and regional challenges such as people smuggling.
Our development program remains one of our top five bilateral programs by value.
Together, Australia and Cambodia have made strong contributions to issues such as regional strategic importance.
We also discussed opportunities to strengthen Australia and Cambodia’s bilateral relationship, including, most importantly, with private sector engagement and trade.
The private sector is an increasingly important driver for economic growth, and we will continue to investigate innovative approaches to engaging the private sector in our development program here in Cambodia, and other parts of the Indo-Pacific.
There is a growing cohort of self-funded Cambodians choosing Australia as their study destination – highlighting the already strong people-to-people links between our two countries.
And of course, this complements the Australian Government’s scholarships program, which, since 1994, has supported over 700 Cambodians to study in Australia.
This has not only given them the skills, training and qualifications for their own personal development, but has enabled them to contribute those skills to the economic viability of Cambodia over the past 22 years.
Our development program has continued to affect the daily lives of Cambodians.
For example, during 2016, we worked with the Cambodian Government and many of our donor partners to launch the new Health Equity and Quality Improvement Project, which will improve access to quality health services across the country.
And with an increasing number of Australians travelling in the area, about 145,000, travelling here to Cambodia, you can see that investing in the health of the country is not just investing in the health of those people that live in that country, but also the people that visit that country.
And so our investment in the health sector is actually contributing to regional health and security.
We continued our investment in infrastructure to unlock opportunities, most especially in the rural areas, and to improve agricultural productivity through the second phase of the Cambodian Agricultural Value Chain Program.
Our ongoing support to Cambodia’s demining efforts has not only, obviously, been a safety partnership, but it is opening up land for agriculture and other economic activity.
We also supported Cambodia’s efforts to end violence against women, and to support people living with a disability – and I will be making some further announcements in relation to that today.
Australia appreciates the integral role of our non-government organisations sector and civil society partners, and we strongly believe that civil society is key to democratic societies and to achieving sustainable development outcomes.
Australia will remain a committed partner for Cambodia as it continues to modernise and grow.
With rapid and dynamic growth also comes changing expectations of its citizens – expectations of being part of the growth and the benefits that economic growth can bring.
Economic growth is not about economic growth for its own sake. It is about benefits that are available to the grass roots in any country or any community.
But, more importantly, that has to be against a background of transparent democracy and institutions and there I particularly echo the comments that were made by the Ambassador in relation to forthcoming elections, and to ensure that they are transparent and meet the expectations, the democratic expectations, of the Cambodian people.
And over the coming years, we will continue to support the Cambodian people to meet their expectations and that is why we believe that space needs to be available, not just for their views but for a range of voices to be heard as part of this process.
The continuing strengthening of our bilateral relationship is not possible without the positive support and engagement from our Cambodian and international colleagues and friends, including all of you here today.
Can I thank you for your work that you do; can I thank you very, very much for the partnerships that we have with you; and can I thank you for the contributions that you make to this country.
I look forward to chatting and meeting with you over lunch.
Thank you for your kind attention.
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