I would like to wish all Australians in Cambodia a very happy Australia Day on 26 January 2014.
Australia and Cambodia continue to enjoy a warm relationship based on historical ties and shared national interests. This relationship is comprehensive, ranging across issues such as regional security, law enforcement and transnational crime, trade and investment, people-to-people links and development cooperation.
People-to-people links in particular add great depth to the connections between Australia and Cambodia.
There is a well-established community of around 30,000 Cambodians who call Australia home. This community makes a positive contribution to Australian society.
The number of Cambodians studying in Australia is increasing. Since 1994, moreover, Australia has funded over 500 scholarships for Cambodian students to pursue postgraduate study in Australia. On return to Cambodia, many scholarship awardees have gone on to take up positions of influence across all sectors and have made substantial contributions to the development of Cambodia.
Over the coming year, the Australian Government will be conducting a trial of the New Colombo Plan, a program which will involve scholarships to Australia for regional students and opportunities for Australians to gain experience of the Indo-Pacific, through study and internship in the region. We will be working with the Cambodian government to implement the New Colombo Plan here.
One of the most significant relationships between Cambodia and Australia is through tourism. In 2013, more than one hundred thousand Australian tourists visited Cambodia and this number continues to grow.
We are proud of the work of individual Australians who are actively contributing to Cambodian range of sectors: in business, non-government organisations, as researchers and as volunteers. There are currently more than 80 Australians in Cambodia working as Australian Government-supported volunteers in a range of Cambodian organisations helping to alleviate poverty, in addition to the hundreds of others who volunteer outside of Australian Government programs.
There are Australians working as researchers at the Angkor Archaeological Park and others are working towards a Heritage Management Framework to protect Cambodia’s priceless cultural heritage. In July, an exhibition featuring archaeological treasures uncovered during excavations conducted at Phum Sophy, Banteay Meanchey Province by a joint Cambodian and Australian archaeological team opened at the National Museum of Cambodia.
In the area of trade and investment, there are some major Australian companies investing in Cambodia, including ANZ and Toll Holdings. Cambodia and Australia are both part of the ASEAN-Australia New Zealand Free Trade Agreement and of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership negotiations, and we hope this will continue to help increase trade and investment between our two countries.
Our two countries have continued to cooperate with our ASEAN partners. This year marks the 40th Anniversary of Australia-ASEAN relations. Australia was ASEAN’s first dialogue partner. The 40th anniversary of relations is an important opportunity for Australia and ASEAN to chart a new strategic direction to our partnership, complementing ASEAN’s focus on strengthening regional integration through the ASEAN Community and development of the East Asia Summit.
I would like to wish all Australians and our Cambodian friends a peaceful and successful 2014.