Remarks at the opening of the Cao Lanh 'Friendship' Bridge
Your excellency, Deputy Prime Minister Dung, Minister Tháº», Former leaders, Ambassadors, Ministers, friends of Australia, friends of Vietnam, distinguished guests, all
I am delighted to be here in Vietnam in the year that we celebrate 45 years of diplomatic relations and in the year that our respective Prime Ministers have elevated our relationship to one of a Strategic Partnership.
This means that there will be more regular high-level engagement between our governments at every level.
It means that we will focus on enhancing our economic ties through greater trade and investment across a variety of fields.
It means that we will continue to engage at a citizens-level in developing our cultural, sporting, educational and political ties.
There are around 300,000 Australians who claim Vietnamese heritage, and last evening I was hosted at a dinner by a very talented young Vietnamese-Australian by the name of Luke Nguyen.
He is what we call a 'celebrity chef', and he invited along to dinner about 20 young Vietnamese-Australians who self describe as "Vossies" – Vietnamese-Australians. They were all raised in Australia, educated in Australia and began their careers in Australia.
Each one of them has come back to Vietnam to reconnect with the land that their parents had called home.
I think this is a marvellous demonstration of how close our countries have become and that the Strategic Partnership of our respective governments is actually underpinned by the strength of the connections between our people.
This Strategic Partnership is evident in a number of forms, but it is also those people-to-people links that we should reflect on today. There are somewhere 23-24,000 Vietnamese students studying in almost 30,000 courses in Australia at present, gaining an Australian educational qualification and returning here to Vietnam to help build this country's productivity.
The Australian Government has established a student program – The New Colombo Plan - whereby we fund undergraduates from our universities to live and study and undertake work experience in countries in the Indo-Pacific, and about 1,500 Australian students have lived and studied and undertaken work experience in Vietnam in the last four years.
Vietnam is an increasingly popular destination for our young people.
So we should pay tribute to those who are contributing so much to our community in Australia and to communities here in Vietnam.
The Cao Lanh Bridge is an important piece of infrastructure - a magnificent design - building a bridge over the central Mekong Delta region.
It will connect communities here in this region.
It will reduce travel for busy people
It will enhance economic activity and productivity, and assist in Vietnam's economic growth.
The Australian Government invested in total about $160 million in this project and we partnered with the Asian Development Bank and I acknowledge Mr Sidjwick's presence here today.
A grant from the Australian Government, a loan from the Asian Development Bank and with support from the Vietnamese Government, this project which was once a dream is now a reality.
Australia has been involved in building infrastructure in Vietnam for some time and this Cao Lanh Bridge builds on the work we did with the My Thuan Bridge – the 'Friendship Bridge'. Indeed in Vietnam more generally Australia has contributed to the construction of about 230km of rural roads, about 70km of national highways and around 102 smaller bridges.
This kind of investment will help underpin Vietnam's economic prosperity into the future.
It will be a lasting reminder, a physical reminder of our friendship, and it is a symbol of the growing ties between Australia and Vietnam.
This Strategic Partnership means we will also work more closely together in tackling the challenges in our region. We are often of the same voice when it comes to regional and global challenges as our interests increasingly converge.
So, I'm absolutely delighted to be part of this auspicious event.
A symbol of our growing friendship and together Australia and Vietnam can ensure that the future for our people is bright.
Long may our friendship endure.