Executive Council Speech, African Union

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Speech, check against delivery

27 January 2011

Thank you for special privilege of addressing this great Council today.

Every country comes to this Council with a different perspective – but Australia's is perhaps unique.

We come as a developed country, but one from the 'south'. Not the 'north'.

We are not from North America.

We are not from Europe.

We are simply Australian.

To come here, I travelled from the 'south', across the Indian Ocean, which laps the shores of both our continents.

I come also from a nation that is surrounded by developing countries – the island states of the Pacific and Indian Oceans, the developing nations of South East Asia, - these are our immediate neighbours and our friends. Neighbours and friends both from the Christian and Muslim worlds.

By instinct, by proximity and by necessity, we therefore understand the challenges, the obstacles and the rewards of economic development. A little better perhaps than some of those more removed from the development challenge whose neighbours come only from the richest countries of the world.

Australia also is a continent of climatic extremes, with deserts, savannah, and tropical rainforest. By experience, therefore, we understand, together with our brothers and sisters in Africa, the harshness of nature. We know fire, drought and flood.

And I thank the many African Heads of Government, and Foreign Ministers, who have personally contacted us in recent weeks to express sympathy over the recent massive floods in my home state of Queensland and my home town of Brisbane.

We have had to learn from bitter experience, dealing with natural disasters on a grand scale. And we stand ready to help our friends in Africa in the critical area of disaster management.

Australia also comes to this Council as a nation that has secured prosperity through industries that many of you share. Through agriculture, mining, forestry and fisheries. The industries of the land, which account for more than half of Australia's export earnings. And we come ready to share the expertise that has brought that prosperity to us with our friends and partners in Africa.

Already our mining companies are active in Africa - $20 billion of investment, more than 200 companies, more than 600 projects across more than 40 countries of Africa. And they will be investing billions more.

Because of our own long experience across 150 years of dealing with vast foreign mining companies and our own land, we also stand ready to help our friends in Africa in developing the legislation and regulatory systems to manage their own mining industries – and do so in cooperation with the African Union.

The people of Africa must get a fair return for the vast mineral wealth that belongs to the people of Africa.

I also come from a nation that fully plays its part in efforts for regional and global security. In countering the drug trade. In countering the threat of terrorism. In meeting the challenge of peace keeping.

Today, more than 3,500 Australians are deployed abroad working for peace in locations like East Timor, the Solomon Islands, Sudan and Sinai. Australia's commitment to peacekeeping since 1960 has seen my countrymen and women deployed in UN missions to more than a dozen African countries.

I come from a country that boasts among its population more than a quarter of a million people of African descent, who share one of the most multicultural societies on earth – 180 nationalities living in harmony, in a society dedicated to tolerance.

I come from a country where, after 200 years of white settlement, it was my responsibility and privilege then as Prime Minister of Australia to formally apologise Aboriginal Australians – the First Australians - with whom it is our privilege to share the continent of Australia.

Distinguished colleagues, I represent a government that prides itself on delivering on its commitments. Whether in development, security or trade - we in Australia do what we say.

Perhaps most importantly, Mr Chairman, I come to this Council with a new confidence in Africa's future – a clarity of vision that, after the travails of the past, Africa looks to a future where many more of its people will live in peace and prosperity.

I come from a Government that is now expanding its relations with the nations and institutions of Africa. We come here to cooperate on a new level; to build new bonds of commerce, development, investment and political dialogue.

We have worked actively with our friends in Africa to secure through the UNFCCC fast start finance for least developed countries for climate change adaption.

We are working actively with Africa to secure a real outcome for agriculture in the Doha Development Round.

We fully embraced the MDGs and in that context have doubled our overseas development assistance (ODA) over the last five years. We have doubled our ODA to Africa over the last three years.

We have established the Australia Africa Awards which offer 400 scholarships for study each year for students across the continent in areas of development priority for the governments of Africa – and by 2013 we will offer 1000 new scholarships each year to support the future skills needs of this continent.

Our mining investment in Africa will grow beyond the $20 billion now invested.

We have already doubled our level of cooperation with Africa in the last three years.

Distinguished colleagues;
Australia has confidence in Africa's future;
The twenty-first century looms as a great century not just for Asia but also for Africa;
Australia wishes to embrace a new engagement with this continent for the future.

END

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