Keynote speech at official Foreign Minister's dinner

  • Speech, check against delivery

JULIE BISHOP: Goodevening Ministers, Secretaries, Ambassadors, representatives of the Timor-LesteGovernment, Friends of Australia, Friends of Timor-Leste. I'm absolutelydelighted to be here this evening on my second visit to Timor-Leste but myfirst as the Foreign Minister of Australia and I'm pleased that I was able tovisit so soon after the formation of the new government and pay our respects tothe new government and ensure that we will be able to work together. The seriesof meetings I had today have given me great confidence that this will be thecase.

MinisterSoares, thank you for hosting the Australian delegation here this evening. Youhave very graciously welcomed us to dinner and we are delighted to be here.Thank you also for welcoming me to Timor-Leste and for the very productivemeeting that we had today. I also met with the President and the Prime Ministerand each meeting was very positive and enjoyable and thank you so much for yourhospitality.

We did agreethat with the signing of the historic Maritime Boundary Agreement in New Yorkin March this marks a new chapter in Australia Timor-Leste relations. I wasgoing to suggest that perhaps it's a new dawn. This morning I went for a run,very early in the dark, we woke the neighbourhood because the dogs beganbarking, but I did return in time to watch the sunrise and what a spectacularsunrise it is - which made me think of Greater Sunrise! Thus it seems to methat a new dawn is an apt way of describing this new era in AustraliaTimor-Leste relations.

The signingof the Maritime Boundary Agreement was a significant milestone in thedevelopment of this nation, along with Australia's role in INTERFET, coming up20 years ago. We are proud to have played a part in both the delimitationnegotiations that led to the treaty and also the role we played in your journeyto nationhood.

Timor-Lesteis a young country, not yet 18 years old, and you have a very young population.I understand about three-quarters of the population are under the age of 35.That brings challenges, but it also brings enormous opportunities for your youngpeople, with all their energy and talent and enthusiasm to drive progress inthis magnificent country.

The factthat we were able to negotiate a treaty, and finalise the maritime boundariesbetween us, speaks volumes of the maturity of our relationship. There are manyboundary disputes around the world, some decades old, some centuries old, andyet, Australia and Timor-Leste, using a world-first conciliation process, wereable to negotiate in good faith, remain the closest of friends and deliver an outcomethat is fair and equitable and in accordance with international law.

During ourdiscussions today we spoke about new initiatives and ways that we can furtherdeepen and strengthen and broaden our already close relationship. I think thatour initiatives and our efforts come under five headings. The first, our desireto increase our government-to-government dialogue and connections. ForeignMinister Soares, we agreed that there would be annual foreign ministersmeetings. This will maintain the narrative, the dialogue, the exchanges betweenus on a far more regular basis. We also agreed annual senior officials talks,they can do all the work and then you and I will meet to discuss what they'vedone!

We are alsolooking forward to the first parliamentary delegation from Australia toTimor-Leste in probably a decade, and that will occur in November this year, andI look forward to more regular exchanges between our parliamentarians.

The secondarea is collaboration on our shared strategic interests. We are both robust democraciesin the Indo-Pacific. We are island nations and we must protect our maritimedomains and we have a shared interest in doing so. Our military and policecooperation will continue to ensure our nations are secure. And we must worktogether to counter some of the challenges that our maritime domain delivers;transnational crime, illegal fishing, people smuggling. Exchanging experiences,exchanging ideas will make us both stronger. That's why Australia is delightedthat Timor-Leste has accepted our offer of the two Guardian-class patrolvessels that will be delivered to Timor-Leste once they've been built by AustalShips in my home state of Western Australia. In the meantime, in the lead up tothe delivery of the vessels, our Defence Department will be delivering apackage of training, infrastructure, providing skills for your personnel whowill be operating these vessels.

The thirdarea of greater cooperation comes in our economic partnership. There is so muchmore we can do in trade and investment between our two countries, and Australiahas been supporting your government's aspiration to diversify your economy. Youhave wonderful resources in oil and gas, and we will certainly be workingclosely with you to ensure that the development of Greater Sunrise brings themaximum benefits to the people of Timor-Leste. But like all countries, youdon't want to put all your economic eggs in one basket, and so the opportunityto diversify your economy - in agriculture, in tourism horticulture and otherareas - is important and we're very pleased to work with you in that regard.

I waspleased to meet a woman by the name of Luisa today who symbolises the kind ofsupport that Australia is providing to Timor-Leste on the economic front. Luisawas part of our Seasonal Workers Program. She worked in hospitality at theCable Beach Resort in Broome, in north of Western Australia, and she gainedgreat experience there, she came back to Timor-Leste and she's now working at theBalibo Fort Resort which received Australian funding through- and supportthrough our Market Development Facility. That closes the circle as seasonalworkers gaining experience, coming back to Timor-Leste and working in abusiness that had been supported by one of our initiatives, in this case the MarketDevelopment Facility.

Theimportant aspect of our economic partnership is to encourage private sectorinvestment and private sector growth here in Timor-Leste. We'll continue towork with you to achieve that. Clearly the environment must be attractive tobusiness and we're certainly happy to share our experiences in ensuring thatyou have a business friendly environment here through appropriate regulationand legislation. Global capital is very mobile and it goes to the mostattractive destinations, and so we want to work with you to ensure thatTimor-Leste is seen as an attractive destination for foreign capital.

The fourtharea of cooperation is in our common desire to uphold and strengthen theinternational rules-based order. We are open liberal democracies committed tofreedom and the rule of law, human rights, democratic institutions.

Theinternational ruled-based order is under strain and it's important for countriesthat share the values as we do to defend and promote that rules-based order. We'veindicated how we do it. INTERFET is a great example of resorting to a UnitedNations-led effort to lead to the independence of Timor-Leste. Our agreement tosubmit to the Conciliation Commission under the UN Convention of the Law of theSea is another example of how Australia and Timor-Leste support theinstitutions that deliver opportunities for peace and stability, and we'llcontinue to do so.

We aredelighted to learn that your government is keen to gain membership of theCommonwealth of Nations and given your commitment to the values of democracy,human rights, rule of law, Australia will support your aim to become a memberof the Commonwealth. Likewise, the WTO, again, we think it appropriate thatTimor-Leste should take its part in supporting open, free and liberalisedtrade.

The fiftharea of deeper cooperation is in our regional engagement and in that regard wewill support Timor-Leste's aim to be a member of ASEAN. We think it'sabsolutely appropriate that this nation be part of the regional architecture,and I will certainly be speaking to our foreign minister counterparts topromote that ambition of Timor-Leste to be a member of ASEAN. We will also domore to revitalise the trilateral initiative between east Indonesia, north ofAustralia and Timor-Leste. There are many things that together we can achieveand I think that that trilateral arrangement can be renewed to the benefit ofall.

One constantin our relationship has been Australia's support through development assistancesince independence. We want to see a confident, prosperous, independentTimor-Leste, strong and stable, with opportunities for your young people inparticular. Our development assistance, which is about $91 million this year,is designed to promote economic growth, opportunities for your young people,and to improve people's lives and strengthen your communities. Our developmentassistance aligns with your Strategic Plan as you seek to develop humancapital, diversify your economy, promote good governance; promote theempowerment of women and inclusion of all and we'll continue to work as apartner with you as you realise your Strategic Plan.

Anotherconstant in our relationship are the people-to-people links. Foreign Minister,you mentioned our connection all the way back to World War 2. Tomorrow, I willbe visiting Dare Memorial, a special site that commemorates the Australian2/2nd Brigade in World War 2. We also remember the courageous Timorese whosupported the Australian soldiers at that time. I know the President's fatherwas one of those courageous men who were prepared to sacrifice their lives tosupport the Australian soldiers in their campaign. So that's a very specialhistoric link that Australians deeply appreciate.

Also, theeducation exchanges between our two peoples have led to this enduringfriendship. I know, Foreign Minister, you are a wonderful example of one of ouralumni from the Australia Awards program, completing your PhD at AustralianNational University in Canberra. As I said today, look what an Australia Awardsscholarship can do - you can turn out to be the foreign minister of yournation! I know that there are a number of Australian Award recipients withinyour government and a number of them here this evening and I met many of themlast night. This is an investment by the Australian people in the relationshipwith Timor-Leste, bringing the future leaders of your country to gainqualifications in ours, and the connections and the networks and thefriendships will last a lifetime.

Likewise,the New Colombo Plan that you mentioned is an initiative of the AustralianGovernment, and yes it's my baby. It's a program that I came up with a numberof years ago and I'm so delighted that we've been able to implement it acrossthe Indo-Pacific. It provides young Australian undergraduates with theopportunity to live and study and undertake practicums, work experience,internships in one of a number of countries in the Indo-Pacific. Importantly,in the case of Timor-Leste, this is becoming an increasingly populardestination for our undergraduates and they are coming here to undertake workexperience and internships in fields as diverse as agriculture, education,science, medicine and human resources - a whole range of areas. What isimportant about it is they are gaining a much deeper understanding ofTimor-Leste, an appreciation of how important you are to Australia as one ofour closest neighbours and dearest friends. So when our young people make thatconnection and have that understanding it will ensure that this relationshipendures.

The thirdway of developing our exchanges is through the Seasonal Workers Program and Iwas delighted today at Tibar Training Centre to announce that we will increasethe number of places allocated to Timor-Leste workers from 800 this year to 1500places in 2018, 2019. In that way, Australian employers will gain hardworkingTimorese workers to fill labour shortages in Australia and your workers willhave an opportunity to gain experience, make some money, send remittances hometo develop communities here.

So these aresome of the matters that we discussed today, and I believe that through ourhard work together, a commitment at all levels of our societies - from ourgovernments, through to our business circles, through to our people - thatcommitment to each other means that we will continue to be reliable partnersand true and trusted friends. This is the legacy that we owe the next generationof Australians and Timorese. Together, reliable partners and trusted friends.Ladies and gentlemen, I ask you to stand. A toast - reliable partners, trustedfriends - Australia and Timor-Leste.

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