Well, thank you and good afternoon, everyone.
I will croak my way through this speech with your indulgence!
Can I start by acknowledging Ambassador-designate Nam, to the many members of the diplomatic corps who have joined us here today, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen.
Can I start by welcoming you, Ambassador-designate. A warm welcome to you and the Australian Government looks forward to working with you over the coming years once you have been officially appointed.
I have a long-standing relationship with the Vietnamese community in Australia from my many years in the multicultural space, including as Assistant Minister for Multicultural Affairs.
The Vietnamese-Australian community now numbers more than 290,000.
It is our eighth largest community and my home state of New South Wales is proud to host the largest community of people of Vietnamese heritage.
Over the years, I have especially enjoyed attending many Vietnamese cultural festivals and seeing firsthand the incredible contribution that the Vietnamese-Australian community has made to our rich multicultural tapestry.
I also had the opportunity to visit Vietnam in 1994, which I thoroughly enjoyed and I do hope to go back and see for myself, Ambassador-designate, the progress that Vietnam has made.
Today is an opportunity to recognise Vietnam’s remarkable development over recent decades and its implementation of its policy of Doi Moi, which was, when I was visiting, in its initial stages, and also to see the transformation of Vietnam into an emerging powerhouse in Southeast Asia.
It is also an opportunity to reflect on the deep and growing economic, security and development ties between Australia and Vietnam.
It is an exciting time in the bilateral relationship between our two countries.
Our trade relationship is going from strength to strength.
Vietnam is now one of the fastest growing export markets in ASEAN – with two-way trade of $10.5 billion in 2016.
We are both committed to fostering regional economic integration.
A Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)-11 Agreement that matches the TPP-12’s high standards would be a significant result for Vietnam’s APEC host year.
We stand ready to work with Vietnam to ensure a strong outcome on an agreement that would cover almost US$10 trillion of GDP and close to 500 million consumers.
Southeast Asia is the centre of Australia’s international interests.
Australia and Vietnam hold common views on many of the key issues facing our region.
We share a commitment to ASEAN centrality and ASEAN’s role in building regional prosperity and security.
As Minister for International Development and the Pacific, I am particularly proud of our development cooperation with Vietnam, which is maturing into a true economic partnership.
We are sharing lessons from our reform experiences, we’re finding new and innovative ways to spur economic growth and
promote greater private sector investment.
And of course the benefits flow both ways.
Vietnam’s prosperity is in our region’s interest and of course in Australia’s interests.
Our relationship has many other substantive aspects, including a strong multilateral engagement, a mature conversation on human rights, a strengthened education partnership, and vibrant tourism.
But there is still room to grow our bilateral relationship further, building on our long-standing cooperation to date and we look forward to taking the relationship to new heights as we mark next year’s 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations. Government-to-Government dealings will have a key role in this process.
Our strong people to people links through a thriving diaspora offers great opportunities to strengthen our bilateral links and, as I said, the Vietnamese-Australia community is at the heart of expanding our commercial ties and forging new business links between our two countries.
For anybody who’s ever attended the Vietnamese Tet Festival at Fairfield Showground, where I think it’s getting to the point where the Fairfield Showground is going to be too small to be able to cope with the growing numbers that yearly attend the Vietnamese Tet Festival.
Also, the inaugural Australia-Vietnam Young Leadership Dialogue held in May this year is a prime example of the vibrant next generation of people-to-people links.
This group of passionate young Australian and Vietnamese entrepreneurs are building the long-lasting networks, which are critical to strengthening our bilateral relationship.
Of course, official visits between our leaders and ministries are another key part of strengthening our partnership and I know my Ministerial colleagues look forward to travelling to Vietnam later this year for APEC-related meetings.
We’re also looking forward to welcoming senior Vietnamese visitors to our shores over coming months, culminating in Prime Minister Phuc’s visit for the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit in Sydney in March next year – the Summit, which reflects Australia’s commitment to deepening our security and economic relationships with our Southeast Asian partners.
It is a prime opportunity to produce substantive outcomes that lay the groundwork for a stronger ASEAN-Australia partnership.
In closing, we have a great deal to celebrate today a growing Vietnam, and a strong and dynamic relationship between our two countries.
And I look forward to continuing our strong, long-standing partnership with the Vietnamese community for many years to come.
Congratulations to Vietnam on your National Day.
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