Australian Embassy
The Philippines

SP140123 - Australia Day 2014 Reception

Speech by Ambassador Bill Tweddell
Australia Day Reception
23 January 2014
The Peninsula Manila, Makati City


The Honourable Albert del Rosario, Secretary of Foreign Affairs

His Excellency Archbishop Giuseppe Pinto, Dean of the Diplomatic Corps

Distinguished members of Cabinet and Congress

Fellow members of the Diplomatic Corps

Friends from the Consular Corps, the Australian and Filipino business communities, and the media

Ladies and Gentlemen

Magandang gabi sa inyong lahat, good evening, and thank you for joining us to celebrate Australia Day.

Australia Day is a day for celebration, and also for reflection.

We celebrate the long history and rich heritage of our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

We reflect on what we have accomplished as a people drawn from over 200 nations.

We celebrate and reflect on our values. Not least
- a fair go for all
- the enriching impact of diversity
- the freedom and equality of every Australian,
- and, of course, a short speech, and a great party!

My job – as Australia’s Ambassador to the Philippines – is a true privilege.

In this past year the Philippines has faced a lot and accomplished a lot.

During the past year, as I travelled throughout Mindanao, Guimaras, Leyte, Bohol, Palawan, Samar, Iloilo and Cebu, and of course here in Luzon - I have been constantly reminded of the special relationship between Australia and the Philippines.

We are close neighbours.

And we are close friends.

And, in times of need – friends help out friends.

In Tacloban after the devastating Typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan, I met Australian doctors and nurses working to save lives.

In Ormoc, I met many of the 400 young men and women of the Australian Defence Force working with our Filipino friends to get kids back to school.

I stood on the deck of the Royal Australia Navy’s HMAS Tobruk and addressed the ship’s company, as Australians stood alongside their friends from the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

I admired the open-heartedness of the Australian people – donating millions to help their Filipino friends get essential food, water and shelter.

On the ground, I was inspired by the resilience shown by the Filipino people. This I will remember and admire for the rest of my days.

The smiles on the faces of innocent children.

The ‘thank you’ signs spread on basketball courts that I saw from the air.

And, here in Manila, I was impressed by the leadership of the Government of the Philippines in responding to what Australians would describe as a ‘triple whammy’ of disasters – the humanitarian crisis in Zamboanga City, the earthquake in the Visayas, then Super Typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan.

The response to calamity showed both the true nature of the Filipino spirit and the value of our long-standing ties, especially our strong development assistance, defence, police and consular cooperation.

I think we can all agree that the bond we share is special.

Our Foreign Minister Julie Bishop reiterated this when she visited the Philippines last month.

And she is coming back, together with our Trade Minister Andrew Robb, in only a few weeks’ time, for discussions with their counterparts, Secretaries del Rosario and Domingo.

Their visit provides an opportunity to bring yet more energy and meaning to our relationship.

In regional forums, Australia and the Philippines stand together on issues that matter to us both.

In 2014, we will celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Australian-ASEAN relations, and are pleased to work with the Philippines as our Country Coordinator.

In closing, to the almost a quarter of a million Filipino-origin people who now call Australia home – thank you for contributing so much to Australia.

And to the diverse Australian community in the Philippines – thank you for your contribution to the Philippines and to Australia’s standing in this great country.

It is a constant source of pride for me, to see so many fine Australians making such a positive contribution in the Philippines.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my honour now to invite you to raise your glass in a toast:
- to His Excellency President Benigno S Aquino III,
- to the health and prosperity of the Filipino people,
- and to the special friendship between Australia and the Philippines.

Happy Australia Day!