May I start by acknowledging all present here today, in particular my many Federal Colleagues Tony Burke and Pauline Hanson; Dr Fady Karam, welcome again to Australia; to my many, many State and Parliamentary colleagues; to you, Bishop Tarabay; Reverend Fathers and Sisters; Tony Obeid and the Committee of Lebanese Forces; Jihad Dagher; Lebanese Forces here in Sydney; to many distinguished guests; ladies and gentlemen.
I am delighted to once again join you to celebrate this evening and to again represent the Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull.
It is also my pleasure to convey the following message on behalf of the Prime Minister:
It gives me great pleasure to extend my best wishes to everyone attending the Annual Function of the Lebanese Forces Australia – Sydney Branch.
This is a precious moment in which to acknowledge the strong and enduring ties between our nations, and to celebrate that these bonds have been bolstered by the numerous contributions of those of Lebanese descent in Australia.
From the sporting field to the highest levels of government, Lebanese Australians have contributed greatly to the progress of our nation, and continue to play an important part in our evolving national story.
In turn, Australia remains a firm friend of Lebanon, committed to its sovereignty, independence and national unity, and proud of our ongoing humanitarian and peace-keeping assistance.
In the midst of a troubled world, the Lebanese people remain resilient and strong, and I am confident that this, along with their firm community and cultural ties, will continue to carry this great people towards a better future.
With these thoughts in mind, I wish everybody attending tonight’s special event an enjoyable and memorable evening.
The Honourable Malcolm Turnbull MP, Prime Minister of Australia.
Can I say that the Australian Government recognises the immense challenge that Lebanon faces as a result of the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, including hosting over one million Syrian refugees.
And Australia has done its part to mobilise one of our largest-ever crisis responses.
To date, we have provided and committed over half a billion dollars in humanitarian assistance in response to these crises.
We committed to resettle an additional 12,000 Syrian and Iraqi refugees, over and above our humanitarian programme.
All 12,000 of those visas have been granted and more than 10,000 refugees are already safe in Australia.
As promised, we gave priority to the most vulnerable: the persecuted minorities, the women, the children, the families with the least prospect of ever returning safely to their homes.
We have made a major military contribution.
Our multi-year funding package for Lebanon and Jordan is focusing on education and livelihoods and providing opportunities for refugees and most importantly their host communities.
Can I conclude by congratulating the Lebanese Forces in Australia for the work that you do.
Since your incorporation in 2001, your community leaders in the local Australian Lebanese community have worked to promote understanding and equality between the community and the wider Australian community.
You have lived up to your mission to encourage your community to participate in cultural and sporting activities.
You have provided assistance to your communities under financial pressure.
You have promoted social, economic and tourist exchanges between Australia and Lebanon.
And above all, you have continued assiduously to support a democratically elected Lebanese president and democracy in Lebanon.
On behalf of the Australian Government, I wish you well in continuing your work to strengthen the bonds between our two countries, but most importantly to bring democracy and stability to Lebanon.
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