Dinner for Laos Prime Minister with Scholars

  • Speech

I acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the land on which we meet, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation, and pay respect to their elders past and present.

Good evening everyone! Sabaidee tuk tuk tarn!

I warmly welcome His Excellency, Mr Sonexay Siphandone, Prime Minister of the Lao People's Democratic Republic.

I also welcome

  • HE Mr Saleumxay Kommasith, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs;
  • HE Mr Thongphane Savanphet, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs;
  • HE Mr Sinchai Manivanh, Ambassador of the Lao PDR to Australia;
  • The Pro-Vice Chancellor of Melbourne Uni. Prof Adrian Little; and
  • Deputy Vice-Chancellor RMIT Professor Sherman Young.

And of course, our Australia Awards and Defence Cooperation Program scholars from Laos.

The Laos-Australia relationship has been built on decades of mutual trust and respect.

The foundations of our relationship are the connections between our people. 

Businesspeople. Tourists. Migrants.

And especially our students and alumni.

Prime Minister, between the welcoming party at the airport and your delegation, there were three alumni from Monash University!

Your Deputy Prime Minister gained a Master of International Study and Development from Monash University in 1997.

Representing the Premier at the greeting, Nick Staikos, the Victorian Parliamentary Secretary to the Premier and for Multicultural Affairs, graduated from Monash in 2009.

And I went to Monash where I studied public policy.

It's just another example of how our universities can deepen relationships across borders and between countries.

The Australia Awards and Defence Cooperation Program scholars here tonight are the embodiment of our close people-to-people links.

They represent the depth of our relationship across the public, private and defence sectors.

It has been 70 years since the first Lao scholar came to Australia to study under the Colombo Plan.

We now have over 1,400 alumni who have studied in Australia under an Australian Government-funded program.

These students have returned to Laos, like the scholars here today will, to contribute to their country's development.

They not only return with new skills and experience to help them succeed in whatever field they choose…

…from supply chain and logistics management, to international relations, to banking and finance, to media production.

They also bring back new connections, friendships and understanding.

Deputy Prime Minister I hope you in particular enjoyed returning to Monash to see the World Mosquito Program yesterday.

Though I daresay Monash University looked a little different today when you and I studied there!  

This has been an important week in the Laos-Australia relationship.

Prime Minister, the Comprehensive Partnership you signed this morning with Prime Minister Albanese is a landmark in our 72-year bilateral relationship.

It is fitting that you signed this landmark agreement, Prime Minister, thirty years after the historic visit made by your father in 1993.

Elevating our relationship through a Comprehensive Partnership is a sign of the importance we place in the bond we share…

…and shows our commitment to further deepen and expand our cooperation in our four pillar areas:

  • people, education and resource development;
  • economics, trade and investment;
  • climate change, environment and energy; and
  • defence and law enforcement. 

There is a lot we will need to cooperate on in these areas in the future.

And the students in this role will play an important role in that!

It has also been an important week for ASEAN and Australia.

The second ASEAN-Australia Special Summit commemorated our shared history over 50 years…

…whilst looking ahead to the next 50.

Australia sees ASEAN at the centre of a stable, peaceful, and prosperous region.

A region that is free and open – that encourages exchange and dialogue over conflict.

Deeping our ties and engagement with the countries of Southeast Asia is a priority for our Government.

And in working towards this, Australia has greatly valued our close working relationship with Laos as our ASEAN Country Coordinator and in your capacity as Chair of ASEAN in 2024.

Tonight's dinner is a wonderful opportunity for you to hear firsthand from Lao students in Australia, about the courses they are studying and cultural experiences they have had.

But it is also an opportunity to celebrate how far Australia's relationship with Laos has come over the last 72 years.

Thank you to the Laos-Australia Institute for organising this dinner.

I would now like to invite His Excellency Mr Sonexay Siphandone, Prime Minister of the Lao People's Democratic Republic, to the podium.

Khop chai.

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