Australia Day Reception
Remarks by Ambassador Bill Tweddell
26 January 2012
Magandang gabi sa inyong lahat, good evening, and thank you for joining us as we celebrate Australia Day 2012.
For all Australians, 26 January is a day of celebration. Its origin is rooted in our colonial past, marking the afternoon in 1788 when Captain Arthur Phillip directed his fleet of 11 vessels, carrying a 1,000 people, into Port Jackson, now known as Sydney Harbour.
In the years since then, Australia Day has come to symbolise more than just this key moment in our history. Modern Australia – open, dynamic and multicultural – considers it a celebration of our diverse origins, of our unity of purpose, and of our optimism as we confidently face the future.
Australia Day is also an occasion to give thanks for the unique beauty of our land, the diversity of its wildlife and natural riches, and, above all, for the strength and resilience of our people. We also give thanks that Australians live together as one people in a nation blessed by economic prosperity and social harmony.
We celebrate Australia Day in the Philippines this year in the shadow of last December’s Typhoon Sendong. Sadly, many families across northern Mindanao remain displaced by flooding. I add my own condolences to those of my Government for the terrible loss of life and destruction caused. Australia was pleased to offer assistance in the aftermath of this tragic event. We will continue to work with our Philippine partner agencies to strengthen disaster preparedness and response.
Having presented my credentials as Australia’s Ambassador earlier today to President Aquino, this Australia Day has a special poignancy for me. It has caused me to reflect on the strength of the friendship between our two countries, and on the many ways we work together for the advancement of our people.
Vulnerability to natural disasters is, unfortunately, one thing that Australia and the Philippines have in common. But we also share a powerful optimism and determination to overcome this kind of adversity, and to do what we can to help our neighbours – those next door, or those in neighbouring countries.
And we have many other shared interests and values which form the bedrock of our relationship: a commitment to democracy; a determination to work for peace, security and economic growth; a passion for transparency and good governance; respect for human rights; and care for the environment.
As neighbours in the Asia-Pacific region – Darwin is only a little over three hours from Manila by Jetstar –Australia and the Philippines are natural and close partners.
This year marks the 66th anniversary of diplomatic relations. It is an exciting time in the bilateral relationship. Recent meetings between Prime Minister Gillard and President Aquino, and between Foreign Minister Rudd and Foreign Secretary del Rosario have reaffirmed the importance which both our governments place on our relationship. They also reinforced the understanding on both sides that there is scope for us to deepen even further our relations. We hope that President Aquino will visit Australia in 2012.
In the year ahead, we look forward to working with the Philippine Government to deepen and widen our work already underway here in the Philippines
• we will support the Philippine Government’s efforts to reduce poverty and to improve the quality of education, infrastructure, and economic governance. Australia’s official aid is now $A123 million, or Php 5.5 billion, a year making Australia the Philippines’ largest source of bilateral grant aid;
• we will deepen our already close cooperation with Philippine agencies in defence, law enforcement, counter-terrorism, border control, transport security, and maritime security;
• we will build mutual and lasting prosperity through trade and investment, capitalising in particular on the entry into force of the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement;
• and we will promote ever-stronger people-to-people links through education and training, scholarships, tourism and employment.
Australia Day is also a time for recognising the contributions that individuals and organisations make to Australia’s communities. So I want to use this occasion to pay tribute to the Filipino community in Australia – a community which now numbers well over 200,000, and does so much to enrich Australia and to strengthen the bonds of friendship between us. I also want to acknowledge the growing community of Australians living and working in the Philippines, some of whom are here with us tonight.
For my part, as Australia’s new Ambassador, I am committed to deepening the bilateral relationship further. We have achieved much together, but there is much more than can be done.
Ladies and gentlemen, it is now my honour to invite you to raise your glasses in a toast: to His Excellency President Benigno S. Aquino III, to the health and prosperity of the Filipino people, and to the deepening friendship between Australia and the Philippines.