Formal Opening of the Australian Embassy Kuwait City
9 June, 2008, Kuwait
Thank you, Ambassador (Glenn Miles). I’m very happy to be here with you and the staff of the Australian Embassy in Kuwait.
Your Excellency Undersecretary Al-Jarallah; ladies and gentlemen.
Thank you very much for attending.
This event is, of course, while very pleasant and very important, is well overdue.
The Australian Embassy in Kuwait City has been open since late 2004, and the Embassy has occupied these premises since October 2005.
I am in the fortunate position of being able to combine my first visit to the State of Kuwait with the formal opening of this Chancery.
I will be meeting with His Excellency (Undersecretary Al-Jarallah) immediately after this ceremony to discuss the expanding bilateral ties between Australia and Kuwait, to brief him on the priorities of the new Australian Government, and to seek his views on regional developments.
I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Kuwait on the holding of the recent national elections. I would also like to thank publicly the Kuwaiti government for its hospitality to Australians resident in Kuwait.
The warmth of our relationship with Kuwait goes beyond a sizeable and growing trade relationship, now worth over A$800 million a year.
It rests, historically, on a longstanding and bipartisan Australian commitment to the sovereignty of the State of Kuwait, including through Australia's contribution of over 2,000 troops to the liberation of Kuwait in 1991.
Starting with Australia’s support for Kuwait’s territorial sovereignty and then moving to economic and trade links, increasingly now our relationship is being deepened by people to people links.
4,000 Kuwaitis visited Australia last year. A growing number of young Kuwaitis come to Australia to study. Over 1,000 Australians work in Kuwait, in many sectors of a booming economy.
Many of those Australians are teachers and educators. I’m especially pleased to see the Australian educational model is doing so well in Kuwait.
The Australian College of Kuwait, open since 2004, now has almost two thousand full-time students. The Australian College of Kuwait is cooperating closely with Challenger TAFE and Central TAFE, both higher educational institutions in my own state, Western Australia. One of its number is a former director of a TAFE in my own electorate.
Australia has long had and will continue to have very close interests in the wider Gulf, as well as in Kuwait. Indeed, today I have come from bilateral discussions in the United Arab Emirates.
There are some 60 direct flights from the Gulf to Australia every week and that number continues to grow. That is not all that remarkable given the growing strengths in the economic, trade, investment and people to people links.
Your Excellency, in our profession you are always compelled to make formal remarks but now I would like to do what we call in Australia ‘go a bit off the cuff’ to tell you how I feel about the relationship and my time here.
Can I firstly say that while I think the economic, trade and investment relationship is very important, when I speak to Kuwaitis what first underpins the relationship between our two people and our two nations was Australia’s respect for Kuwait territorial sovereignty and acting to work for the liberation of Kuwait in the 1990s. This was something Australia did enthusiastically because we do believe it is important that sovereignty of nation-states should be respected and we very warmly appreciate the gratitude and regard that Kuwaitis continue to show for that.
In addition to our trade and business relationship, now we find the people to people contact. I think education itself is particularly important, growing numbers of young Kuwaitis are studying in Australia and there is a growing presence of Australian educationalists in Kuwait. Of all the things that reflect people to people exchanges, education is perhaps the most important and most effective. The young Australian who studies in Kuwait, or the young Kuwaiti who studies in Australia carries the culture of the other nation and friendships all his or her life. That is what builds, in my view, important relationships between nation-states. Minister to Minster contact, nation-state to nation-state contact is one thing, trade and investment another, but in the end it is the people to people contacts that makes the relationship special.
You Excellency, can I say how very pleased we are in that context to have with Kuwait a very good security, strategic and defence cooperation arrangements and how grateful we are that Kuwait has agreed to facilitate transit of some of our troops from Iraq as they return home to Australia. I will be visiting these troops later this evening to pay my respects.
I must say Your Excellency, having been in the UAE this morning and Kuwait this afternoon, I think there is a lot more that Australia can do for its relationship with Kuwait and the region generally. I think there is a lot more we can do to underpin those very warm feeling of friendship between our two nations and also to underline the importance of the relationship with the GCC and the region. We are very much looking forward to working closely with you.
I am now compelled to go back and do the formal dedication.
Ambassador Miles, on behalf of the Australian government, let me acknowledge the contributions, past and present, of members of the Australian Embassy here in Kuwait.
I extend the thanks of our Embassy to you, Undersecretary Al-Jarallah - and through you, to your colleagues in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs - for the help and assistance you continue to give us here in Kuwait.
I also acknowledge the work of Kuwait’s Ambassador to Australia, Mr Al-Ghunaim and diplomatic staff in Canberra.
It is my great pleasure to now formally declare these premises formally open, and re-dedicate them to an ever closer relationship with the people and the government of Kuwait.