JULIE BISHOP:           I’m absolutely delighted to be here at the inaugural bilateral Australia-Norway ocean dialogue. I particularly welcome Deputy Minister Hagen and Ambassador Klovstad, and the representatives from the Norwegian ministry and agencies, and likewise my Australian colleagues, and welcome to both delegations.

Australia and Norway are close friends. We have warm and friendly relations, and we have a significant Norwegian diaspora in Australia, and so our people-to-people connections keep us as close friends.

We’re also likeminded in our view of the world. We share a common belief in the importance of the international rules based order. We are likeminded on many issues including human rights, good governance, sustainable development and open trade. Today we can officially add oceans to our long list of areas of cooperation.

Australia is an island continent. We are surrounded by three oceans and four seas, and Deputy Minister you have just been in the Pacific, so you will know how fragile and important the Pacific Ocean is to Australians - it is part of our region, it is our backyard, our neighbourhood.

We are obviously deeply concerned about the legal regime and norms that govern our oceans. Our oceans are facing major stresses and we see it in climate change impact, in the exploitation of our oceans, in the destruction of habitats, and in the pollution that is also impacting on our oceans.

In our Foreign Policy White Paper released last year, we focussed on our responsibilities to build sustainable development in the Pacific and of course much of that is based on a sustainable blue economy, but we also talked about the importance of preserving and conserving the oceans, and particularly the areas for which Australia is responsible. You would be aware that we are on the World Heritage Committee at present and we take a particular focus on our preservation, conservation and maintenance of the Great Barrier Reef, the greatest coral reef structure in the world.

I note that Norway has also done a White Paper which focusses on the importance of oceans in your foreign policy development, so again we are likeminded in our approach. We are also countries that base our policies on evidence, evidence-based policies, so therefore scientific research plays a very important role. I know today that we are signing a High Level Arrangement on Antarctic and Southern Ocean cooperation. I’m pleased to say that last week our Minister for Innovation, Senator Michaelia Cash announced the establishment of the Australian Antarctic Science Council - revitalising the level of scientific research into the Antarctic and providing funding of $100 million over 10 years to back up that research.

I am pleased that we are signing that High Level Arrangement and this will build on the great degree of cooperation that exists between us on the issues of oceans. I know that our Prime Minister Turnbull is very much looking forward to taking his place on Prime Minister Solberg’s High Level Panel on Building a Sustainable Ocean Economy.

Welcome, I am sure our respective delegations have much to discuss, much to agree upon, a few things we may disagree upon, but overall I think this is a wonderful initiative, and I thank Norway for taking the leadership role in establishing this dialogue.

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