Speech by Ambassador Bill Tweddell
Australia Day 2015 Reception
29 January 2015
The Honourable Albert del Rosario, Secretary of Foreign Affairs
Former President Fidel V Ramos
Former Prime Minister Cesar Virata
Your Excellency Christian Vihruri, Ambassador of Papua New Guinea and Acting 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 communities, and the media
Ladies and Gentlemen
Magandang gabi sa inyong lahat, good evening, and thank you for joining us to celebrate Australia Day.
Allow me to begin this evening by expressing my condolences for the significant loss of life over the weekend at Maguindanao.
Our thoughts will be with family, friends and colleagues of the deceased PNP officers – including a number of fine officers known personally to us in the Embassy - during the National Day of Mourning (tomorrow, 30 January).
Australia Day means many things to different Australians.
For some, it is the day when they make a public commitment to Australia in the citizenship ceremonies which take place across the country.
For others it is a day for reflection on what Australia has achieved, on the Australian way of life, and on our hard fought traditions of democracy, fairness, equity and individual opportunity.
A great philosopher, John Stuart Mill, once concluded that there were two essential elements for a nation to exist.
The first was that a people would want to be governed as one single nation state.
Australia achieved this feat in 1901 and we have spent the past 114 years building the institutions and the character of our democracy.
The second essential element for a nation was that its people were bound by a ‘common fellow feeling’, one deeply rooted in language, literature and history.
Beyond Australia’s indigenous history, the pioneering efforts of those who came on the first fleet in 1788 and the subsequent waves of settlement in the 19th century, it was not until the Great War that unfolded in late 1914, that our nation had its story.
This year, 2015, Australia will commemorate the 100th year anniversary of the fateful landing of Australian Imperial Forces at Gallipoli.
This single event is often said to be our nation’s baptism by fire, and it now has a special place in our history and our hearts, as it does in New Zealand.
From the tales of bravery and sacrifice of thousands of young Australian men who fought in this theatre of war, miles from home, was born the spiritual ANZAC legacy.
And with it come those traits that helped shape the young nation then, and which stays with us today: notions of resilience, determination, compassion, endurance and mateship.
Mateship – the quintessential Australianism which suggests friendship, equality and solidarity.
And our diplomatic efforts in the Philippines are grounded in those key elements of friendship, equality and solidarity. Or perhaps – as it is said locally – bayanihan.
2015 will also mark the 70th anniversary of the declaration of the Liberation of the Philippines, in which 4,000 Australians took part and 92 gave their lives. Last October, I had the honour of unveiling a memorial marker at Palo, Leyte, dedicated to their sacrifice.
I am a staunch supporter of the men and women who serve in our Defence Force, and of the excellent bilateral relationship that our two countries’ Armed Forces enjoy.
Consistent with Australia’s commitment to helping the Armed Forces of the Philippines with their modernisation efforts, I am delighted to inform you that earlier today, the Minister for Defence, Kevin Andrews, announced that the Australian Government will gift two recently-decommissioned Landing Craft Heavy vessels to the Philippines Government.
The two former Royal Australian Navy vessels will be refurbished with new safety and navigation equipment, and be ready for handing over to the Philippine Navy in May this year.
The vessels will provide additional sealift capability, particularly in support of Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief.
An offer has also been made for the Philippine Government to purchase three other such landing craft, which were decommissioned from the Royal Australian Navy in 2012.
The Philippines is also one of only a handful of countries with whom Australia has a Status of Visiting Forces Agreement - a reciprocal arrangement that has proven to be mutually beneficial in facilitating exercises and expediting the assistance provided by the Australian Defence Force in the wake of super typhoon Yolanda.
I value highly the bonds that have been built between Australia and the Philippines through defence training.
I note with pride the number of senior AFP officers who have had the opportunity to train in defence establishments in Australia, including the Chief of Staff, General Gregorio Pio Catapang, and the Commanding General of the Philippine Army, Lieutenant General Hernando Iriberri. The Commanding General of the Philippine Air Force, Lieutenant General Jeff Delgado, and the Flag Officer in Command of Navy, Vice Admiral Jesus Millan, have also attended training activities in Australia. We are honoured that all four men are present here tonight.
Aside from the educational benefits passed onto the AFP, there is great value in having the AFP leadership know about Australia, to understand our system of government, our culture and our lifestyle.
Beyond the defence relationship, the bonds nurtured more broadly through education help build trust and provide the launching pad for future cooperation.
This is why the Australian Embassy works hard to support those Filipinos who have chosen to pursue an education in Australia.
Each year we recognise the excellence of our alumni through the Outstanding Alumni Awards presented in conjunction with the Philippine Australian Alumni Association Incorporated.
To this end, I am pleased to officially launch the 2015 Alumni Awards.
The awards showcase the significant contributions made by Australian-educated Filipinos in their chosen professions - I encourage you to nominate deserving Australian-educated Filipinos.
This Australia Day is, for me, a special day of reflection as it is the fourth and may well be the final time I preside over this ceremony in the Philippines.
It is a time of some sadness, but also great happiness, as I survey the well-known faces in the crowd and remind myself of the fascinating, colourful and welcoming path I have travelled and continue to travel in this country.
My job – as Australia’s Ambassador to the Philippines – is a true privilege.
In conclusion, [Secretary del Rosario], may I wish you and your colleagues all the very best in the Philippines’ APEC host year. We look forward to working with our Filipino friends on a successful outcome.
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!