Tshering Deki, Bhutan Broadcasting Service

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Bhutan-Australia relations, Vocational upskilling, Climate change.

Tshering Deki: So, welcome to Bhutan la and we would like to thank you for giving us the opportunity to ask you some few questions. So, you have come today to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the diplomatic relationship between Bhutan and Australia. So, may I ask why is this diplomatic relationship between the two countries important?

Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs: So, Australia and Bhutan have had formal diplomatic relations for 20 years now, but the friendship between the peoples of our country goes back much longer. So, back to the 1960s and the New Colombo Plan that brought students to Australia on scholarships to learn skills and then return to their home countries to contribute to the development of their nations. So, people have been coming from Bhutan to Australia for many, many years and that's a strong foundation of people-to-people connections for a relationship between our governments. At the moment there are about 12,000 Bhutanese in Australia and we really value their presence in our country. It contributes to the rich multicultural fabric of our country, almost like a kira weaving in the different diversity of our community.

And we also welcome about 6000 students in our country, many of whom work, send remittances back to Bhutan to help support their family and then who return back to Bhutan to help contribute to the development of the country here. So, we have a strong relationship based on people-to-people connections and we share an interest in the region, in building a regional order in South Asia, in the Indian Ocean, in the Indo-Pacific, that's peaceful, prosperous, resilient, where all countries are free to make their own decisions, where no country dominates and where no country is dominated. So, Australia and Bhutan are great friends, and we work in partnership together on many issues.

Tshering Deki: So, how do you see the relationship going in the future?

Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs: So, I think it's really a big opportunity for Australia and Bhutan to build on the strength of the people-to-people relationships we have so far. Many Bhutanese have come to Australia to study at a higher education level. I think an area of opportunity for further development is vocational education and training. So, those vocational skills is something that in Australia it is a very prestigious thing to study. We want to be able to expand our Australia Award support to help train vocational education and training skills to build up that capacity here in Bhutan as well.

Tshering Deki: So, are there any specific projects or cooperation that the Australian Government is planning to support in Bhutan?

Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs: Well, Bhutan is one of the few countries in the world on track to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals, goal number six for universal access to clean water and sanitation. And Australia has been proud to support development assistance programs to help promote access to clean water. So, the Water for Women Program, for example, has helped in public promotion of wash principles throughout Bhutan particularly amongst women and disadvantaged communities. So, that's a really important project and it's a great achievement for Bhutan and we hope to be able to build on that moving forward.

Tshering Deki: So, my last question to Your Excellency would be: what are some potential areas of collaboration and cooperation between Bhutan and Australia?

Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs: So, Australia and Bhutan share many interests, one of which is that we are both very serious about the fight against climate change. So, the Australian Government has made significant commitments to reducing our own carbon emissions, legislated our emissions reduction targets to 2030 and aiming for net zero by 2050. But we're also making big investments throughout the Indo-Pacific region in climate, climate financing to build resilience in the region. So, $2 billion worth of financing available for projects in the region to increase not just resilience against climate change, but mitigation of climate change as well. So, we're enthusiastic about supporting hydroelectric projects here and the transmission cables to support regional distribution of hydroelectric power from Bhutan to the region.

Tshering Deki: That's some relevant points that you have made, and we hope that the relationship between the two countries (inaudible) for times to come. And we also like to thank you again for giving us the time to speak with us.

Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs: It's a great honour and privilege to be able to visit Bhutan. Bhutan is well known in Australia by all Australians. We know it as the place of happiness. I'm delighted to be here at the CSI Market seeing some of the wonderful products of Bhutan that are also available in Australia. So, I'll be telling all of my friends in Australia to get a taste of their own - of Bhutan themselves at the CSI Market outlets in Australia.

Tshering Deki: Thank you, la.

Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs: Thank you.

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