Well thank you very, very much, Ambassador. Good morning to you all. Can I start by acknowledging you, Chief Minister, thank you so much for joining us this morning. Brigadier, to you and to your staff and to your police officers, thank you very much and can I publicly thank you for the help that you’ve given us and we also had one of your officers - we really gave her a workout this morning on our walk! - So thank you very, very much. Director General; Ambassador, to you and to all your staff; to our New Colombo Plan students who are here today; to all our staff who are with us today; other members of the diplomatic corp; friends of Australia. Welcome to you all this morning.
I am absolutely delighted to be opening Australia’s new Chancery here in Yangon and it’s been really good to visit here. This is my second visit to Myanmar, I was here in March last year and to be here in monsoon season is a little bit different to my last visit! While it has affected some of our travel plans, nevertheless we’ve been able to see more here of Yangon, so it has been wonderful.
Can I start by congratulating you, Ambassador, and all your staff for your impressive new quarters, we look forward to seeing them.
This Chancery reflects the positive change that is occurring here in Myanmar: a change that is modern, that is strong and that is contemporary. This building is one of the first here in Myanmar to meet international standards, including our own strict building requirements.
The light and colour of the Australian Outback is reflected in what you see, in the joinery you see around you and in the furnishings and fabrics that have been used in this Chancery. Touches of local culture have been integrated via the artworks and the photographs.
And there is no greater sign of Australia’s commitment to Myanmar than this new Chancery.
Australia and Myanmar have enjoyed unbroken diplomatic relations since 1952. We kept an Embassy open and headed by an Australian ambassador throughout the whole period of military rule.
Myanmar is undergoing rapid political, economic and social changes after decades of isolation. And this transformation will necessarily be long and arduous — there have been, and will continue to be, bumps along the road. This is natural given where Myanmar has come from.
But can I say, rest assured, Australia will continue to accompany and support Myanmar on its journey to national peace and reconciliation, including through our development program.
We are pleased to be supporting Myanmar’s reform agenda through our development cooperation program. In 2018-19, we will provide an estimated $76.9 million in official development assistance to Myanmar, with a focus on improving the quality of education, on supporting peace and stability and promoting inclusive economic growth and government management.
However, our relationship extends far beyond development cooperation.
The Australian Federal Police is cooperating with the Myanmar Police Force to disrupt regional drug production and trafficking, which is indeed a scourge in our region.
The Department of Defence, through its Defence Cooperation Program, is providing assistance in non-combat areas such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, peacekeeping and English language training.
The Department of Home Affairs is providing assistance to strengthen the integrity of Myanmar’s borders.
And the Australian Trade and Investment Commission, Austrade, is expanding trade and investment links between Australia and Myanmar. And I had the opportunity yesterday to have a very productive meeting with some of our businesses which are operating here in Myanmar and I was able to hear first-hand, from them, the potential and the good work that is being done and, in particular, some of the reforms in corporate, in solvency and other areas which, of course, will add to the possibility of economic growth and economic prospect in Myanmar.
Indeed, the bilateral relationship is expanding on every front — people-to-people links, government links, political links and trade and investment links.
Our relationship is underpinned by our shared interests and our belief that a stronger, freer, more democratic, more prosperous and more active Myanmar is in the interests of the region, of Australia and – above all – of the people of Myanmar.
And I look forward to conveying our messages of friendship when I meet the State Counsellor and other Ministers and my counterpart the Minister for International Development later today in Nay Pyi Taw.
Thank you very, very much for joining us here today.
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