CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS:

Thank you very, very much for joining us here at the opening of the Australian Embassy here in Addis Ababa. It is great to be here in Ethiopia and very good to be here at part of the meeting of the African Union.

Australia is a candidate for the Human Rights Council for 2018-20 and we have been very, very encouraged by the support that we have received from various African countries.

This is the first time that we (Australia) are seeking support for the Human Rights Council and it is the first time that a country from the Pacific has sought a candidature on the Human Rights Council.

Australia has a good record, a long record, of involvement in human rights and a long involvement with Africa and so, we believe that this is a time for Australia to gain access to the Human Rights Council and we have been, as I said, very encouraged by the support that we have received.

And so I am happy to take questions.

INTERVIEWER:

[Inaudible]

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS:

Look, in relation to the workings, I will leave that to the Ambassador.

Obviously, this has been an important time for us to open the Embassy here. Addis Ababa of course is a very important place in Africa, so obviously, the work that we will do from this Embassy will be to service a number of different posts, a number of different places in Africa, and obviously, we will be looking at the sort of work that we do here and potential work. Of course, I will leave more of that to the day-to-day workings for our Ambassador here.

We also had, before coming here, a very good meeting with His Excellency the Ethiopian Foreign Minister and we talked at length about the relationship between Ethiopia and Australia, and of course our relationship between Australian and the African Union.

If I can just say, we have about 200 Australian stock exchange companies that are involved here in Africa in various mining activities and that is worth conservatively an investment of about USD 45 billion, so that is quite an investment.

We have about 60 different projects in different countries around Africa, so there is that part of it. We also have trade between Australia and different countries in the African Union.

We also have quite a substantial overseas development assistance which is about half a billion dollars so when we look at bilateral and multilateral investments and also contributions to Africa, it is a substantial amount.

But more importantly, we also have a very large African diaspora in Australia, which at this point in time conservatively is about 500,000 people. Many of those people have come to Australia not just as migrants, but under our humanitarian program. And so, as a consequence of that, many of them have come to Australia with permanent residency and that comes with full work rights.

That means that we are seeing, from Australia, remittances to Africa conservatively of about half a billion dollars per annum. That is the totality of a very, we believe, strong relationship with Africa, a strong contribution to the African continent and as a consequence, we hope that that does translate for us in very good, increasingly ongoing relationships with Africa and support for different candidatures.

INTERVIEWER:

How do you evaluate the current bilateral relationship between Australia and Ethiopia and other African countries, in terms of business and development?

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS:

Look, I think the relationships are good. As I have said, given the investment in mining and Australia in mining, engineering, technology and services, obviously Australia is a key partner for Africa and African development in that sphere.

However, I believe that there is scope to expand the relationship. Africa has about a quarter of the world’s arable land, so therefore agriculture is very important for the future of Africa, and Australia, through its various development processes, our ACIAR: Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, we can support the development in your agricultural sectors.

Of course mining; definitely scope for improvement, but there is also scope for improvement in terms of professional services and in infrastructure, so I think that there is scope for doing much, much more between Australia and Ethiopia but also Australia and different countries in Africa.

INTERVIEWER:

You said technology, what about the trade and investment?

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS:

Trade and investment, of course, this is a continent where there is still so much to do and so much that can be developed and so therefore, I think to date, Australia’s contribution in terms of investments to Africa has been substantial and my belief is that there is scope for a growing investment.

One of the really important things are the people-to-people links, and that’s why the diasporas that do live in Australia are a very important basis for the people-to-people links and an important basis for developing future opportunities between Australia and those countries.

We have large communities from Ethiopia, large communities from South Sudan, from Eritrea, from South Africa, from various different countries; I am going to South Africa after my visit to Ethiopia.

So the scope is there, the people-to-people links are there and are growing because we now have not only the first generations, but the second and ultimately the third generations which will continue to foster those very vital links between Australian and Africa.

INTERVIEWER:

What do you think about human rights?

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS:

Well human rights, obviously from an Australian perspective, Australia has a long history of involvement in human rights, not just in Australia, but also internationally.

During our time as a member of the United Nations Security Council, we brought a very pragmatic, practical approach to the way that we did business.

We were very supportive of Africa and African countries and that is seen in the various resolutions. But having said that, we have also raised concerns when those concerns needed to be raised in the human rights area, so I think that in any relationship, it is really important to take the positive, but also be forthcoming.

It is important to raise concerns where those concerns are, and I think that is really where Australia brings that practical and pragmatic approach that characterised our time on the UN Security Council and which we believe will enable us to offer a positive human rights perspective to a role on the Human Rights Councils for 2018 to 2020.

Also, Australia has been very involved in our own Pacific area, as I mentioned, this is the first time that we would have a country from the Pacific involved in the Human Rights Council.

So, it is really important to bring that Pacific perspective to that international body. It is important to raise human rights and raise them at opportune times, and we know one of the pillars – we have five important pillars that we are pushing for our candidacy –  and one of them is of course freedom of expression.

With that comes respect for human rights and certainly in Australia we have a free press, we have freedom of expression. And often that has raised issues, particularly for some countries, and where diasporas have concerns about issues in their countries of origin.

But freedom of expression is very important, as is gender equality, and one of the things we are particularly strong on has been the empowerment of women.

And indeed this morning, we signed a memorandum of understanding with the African Union for a fund for African women which will go specifically to empowerment of women, but more importantly to a gender study to raise not just profile for empowerment of women but also to collect better data.

Because if we collect better data then we are going to be able to make better decisions across a whole range of issues including most especially in relation to human rights.

INTERVIEWER:

Would you highlight the current Ethiopian -Australian government relationship?

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS:

Well our relationship with Ethiopia is a very good one. Certainly, I think that there is scope to expand that relationship and I think that our presence here in Addis Ababa is not just a presence for Ethiopia – it is a presence for Africa.

Not only do we support Ethiopia in a number of different ways, our investments here, we have a number of mining investments and, obviously, the success of those current mining investments I think will also all go well for future investments in Ethiopia.

So I am very pleased to be here, I am very pleased to have had the discussions with the Foreign Minister. Of course, it is not just about mining; there are other areas where I think we can expand our involvement with Ethiopia in other different ways.

Australia is a strong supporter of education and of course our Australia Awards have been very instrumental in training many young people of Ethiopian heritage in Australia and of course in Africa so that is very important because we strongly believe that education is vitally important to the future of Ethiopia.

If we can assist with professional school and upskilling and training, I think that is going to be very important for the future of your country.

INTERVIEWER:

[Inaudible]

CONCETTA FIERRAVANTI-WELLS:

Well, we have cooperated in the past and we continue to cooperate. We have supported Ethiopia in its bid on the United Nations Security Council seat and we are hopeful that Ethiopia will support us in turn for our Human Rights Council bid.

This is part of the reciprocity, the support that one country has for another. With Ethiopia, it is one of those countries where obviously Australia takes a keen interest in what is happening in Africa, but most especially in those countries where we do have diasporas.

Because obviously in a trans-national world and with communications as they are today, what happens in Ethiopia is obviously of great importance to your Ethiopian diaspora, and Australians of Ethiopian heritage and vice-versa.

Therefore, it is important that those relations be good, and it is important that the communication, the people-to-people links are enhanced through those relationships.

INTERVIEWER:

[Inaudible]

CONCETTA FIERRVANATI-WELLS:

I think that what we are seeing is certainly mining; training in the mining, engineering, technology and services space.

I think that there is scope for expansion of our cooperation, particularly in agriculture, because of course in agriculture a quarter of the world’s arable land is here in Africa.

There are areas where we will explore for future development, but again, I have found I have spent many, many years involved in the multicultural space in Australia and one of the things that I have found is that it is the diasporas that form the basis of those people-to-people links.

Eventually, my sense is that, we will have Australians of Ethiopian  heritage in Australia who will start forming those very important bonds in trade, in investment, in scoping future opportunities between the two countries, so education, agriculture, mining, engineering, other areas, infrastructure; I think are all potential areas for future cooperation.

Thank you very much.

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