The Australian Ambassador to Kuwait H.E. Warren Hauck hosted a reception to commemorate his country’s National Day at the Jumeirah Messilah Beach Hotel & Spa on 29 January. Ministry of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Khaled Al-Jarallah was the Chief Guest at the gathering that was attended by members of the diplomatic corps, dignitaries, Kuwaiti officials and Australian nationals. As part of the celebrations, many aspects of Australia’s trade, tourism and education were highlighted through various products and other media on display. There was even a sampling platter of the most delectable Australian cuisine.
In his opening remarks, the Australian Ambassador said, “Australia today is amongst the most open, tolerant and welcoming societies in the world. We are a nation that draws its strengths from the best of all nations and religions in the world - one in four Australians were born overseas.”
He shared many interesting details and history about his country, stating, “The Australian economy is in its 26th year of continuous economic growth – the only developed economy in that time to achieve such growth and, if it continues to the end of this year, it will have become the longest run of economic growth in modern history. We have in Australia one of, if not the, oldest continuing cultures in the world in our indigenous population which is some 50,000 years old. Both the Government and the people of Australia are also very much focused outward, including our ties to the gulf and to Kuwait.”
Lauding the close ties between Australia and Kuwait, he elaborated on how the two countries have built on their relations in different fields, he said, “Australia and Kuwait are close friends. In May last year our Head of State, the Governor-General of Australia, visited and there is no stronger sign of the strength of the bilateral relationship than a visit by a Head of State. It was an opportunity to take stock of the relationship and look to what else might be possible.
Kuwait looms large for Australia. By the middle of last year, Australian exports to Kuwait were around A$800 million – around 30 per cent more than the same time in 2014. Australia also welcomes Kuwait investment into Australia, which puts Kuwait around the 20th largest investor in Australia. We continue to look for ways to boost our economic relationship – and as our Trade Minister has said publicly, Australia remains keen to resume negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement with the GCC.”
Our education ties are also important. You may have seen Box Hill College Kuwait and the Australian College of Kuwait here. We also have around 1400 Kuwaiti students who study in Australia and are looking to secure more links in this sector. We are very supportive of our defence engagement. During his visit to Kuwait, the Governor-General visited the Al-Qurain Martyr Museum, site of one of the last battles before the liberation of Kuwait. As we walked around the building, still riddled with bullet holes, it struck me how far Kuwait has moved on in the last 25 years. I was particularly proud to be there with the Governor-General, recognising Australia’s contribution to the liberation of Kuwait.
Australia has long been a supporter of regional security. We are one of the largest contributors to the coalition to combat terrorism. Australia is proud of the role we played during our time on the United Nations Security Council on humanitarian support to Syria and the positive effect we had on the council is one of the reasons we’re seeking a position on the Human Rights Council for 2018.
On such international issues Australia is very proud to work with Kuwait who has led the world’s generosity in its support to Syrian refugees.
When I talk about the bilateral relationship I tend to focus on the big items, trade, security, investment. But the real strength of a bilateral relationship often sits behind this, in the multitude of smaller exchanges, visits, and cooperation that goes on with or without our involvement.
It is reflected in things like having a media intern in Kuwait for a first time who arrived last week, or one of our students studying Arabic here, or some of our artists doing 3D drawings here. Equally it’s having Kuwaiti academics go to Australia to help us know more about the region, or individual Kuwaitis choose to visit Australia.
I’m also pleased we’ve had the chance to reach out recently to Kuwaiti schoolchildren with our Colours of Australia drawing competition. We were overwhelmed with the response from Kuwait – with thousands of entries. And I hope this is just the first step for those students to discover Australia.
Here in Kuwait, Australia Day comes at a time when Kuwaitis themselves are beginning celebrations for the 11th anniversary of the coronation of the Amir, HH Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the 26th Anniversary of liberation, and the 56th anniversary of independence. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate HH the Amir on the anniversary and to the Government of Kuwait for their appreciation and support of our bilateral relationship.
Last year I commented on Kuwait’s light display on the Kuwait Towers, congratulating us on our national day. In response, our Head of State attended the Kuwait National Day celebrations in Canberra last year. Again this highlights the genuine warmth of the relationship between Australia and Kuwait. And finally, thank you everyone here this evening for joining us, and please enjoy this small taste of Australian food and music.”