Thank you David and congratulations on your fine chairmanship of the Australia-Israel Parliamentary Friendship Group. I acknowledge my parliamentary colleagues here this evening and distinguished guests all. Friends of Australia, Friends of Israel.
We are celebrating this evening the State of Israel for this year marks the 70th anniversary of that very significant United Nations partition resolution that created the State of Israel 70 years ago. Australia was the first nation to vote in favour of that partition resolution. In fact, Australia and Israel have remained firm and staunch friends since that time and it’s a bipartisan position – I acknowledge Mark Dreyfrus here this evening. It’s a bipartisan position of successive Australian governments that this relationship is firm and enduring and I believe that that was highlighted this year by the reciprocal Prime Ministerial visits when in February Prime Minister Netanyahu visited Australia and I was personally delighted because I did extend the invitation to him in front of the Israeli media and he had little alternative but to say ‘Foreign Minister, of course I’ll be there!’ It was a very successful visit in February and then Prime Minister Turnbull reciprocated with a visit to Israel just last month.
I have visited Israel twice in my time as Foreign Minister and previously, and there are many parliamentary and ministerial visits between our two nations, and that gives an indication of the strength and the depth of the relationship.
Prime Minister Turnbull and Prime Minister Netanyahu announced a number of new initiatives during the Prime Minister’s visit last month including in security, in counter-terrorism and in cyber-security, some of the new frontiers that we face as nations.
Last week the Prime Minister, the Trade Minister and I released the Australian Government’s Foreign Policy White Paper, the first in 14 years and the most comprehensive report that demonstrates the intersection of our national interests with our international engagement. It was an opportunity for us to state our interests, our priorities and our values within the framework of a number of guiding principles. The very strong theme running through the White Paper is our commitment to the international rules based order, that web of treaties and alliances and institutions backed up by international law, rules, norms and conventions that has enabled relative peace and prosperity since the end of the Second World War as we sought to create “a world out of chaos”.
That international rules based order reflects our values and the values of Israel as we are both open liberal democracies committed to freedoms and rule of law and democratic institutions.
There is more to our relationship for we are trading partners, commercial partners, and we are working together in the field of innovation. I’m delighted that Australia has established a Landing Pad in Tel Aviv where our market-ready start-ups and scale-ups meet with the Israeli innovation industry – which is of course amongst one of the best in the world – where the investors, entrepreneurs and innovators are able to advise, guide and mentor young Australian entrepreneurs and innovators.
The relationship is strong and deep and Australia is one of few nations in the world prepared to stand up for Israel in the United Nations. We will not support one-sided, unfair, unbalanced resolutions that target Israel. An example is the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Item 7. Israel is the only country in the world singled out for a standalone standing agenda item on human rights and Australia, under the Coalition Government, will not engage in debates on item 7 that target only Israel.
This is an example of the depth of feeling we have of Israel and we will continue to work together. We pay tribute to Israel as a beacon of democracy in a very troubled neighbourhood and we want to continue to work together – as our people continue to engage, as our Government’s continue to work together, and as we are committed to global peace, stability and security. May I take this opportunity to take a glass and toast the friendship of Australia and Israel. To the people of Israel, to the people of Australia, long may our friendship endure.
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