Sunday, February 12, 2006















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National Day of Australia

          For Australians all over the world, Australia Day provides the opportunity to reflect on those things which give us pride in our country, and to celebrate our achievements.
Australia Day in 2006 also provides me, as Australia's newest High Commissioner to Bangladesh, with the opportunity to note with pride the strength of our bilateral relations and to reflect on our mutual goodwill. I extend my best wishes to all Australians living in Bangladesh and am confident they share my desire to continue supporting the bonds which grow stronger between our two countries.
People-to-people links continue to strengthen. Our commitment to democratic principles, shared membership of the Commonwealth, and similar education, legal and commercial systems provide the framework for a growing contribution to Bangladesh's development and increasing numbers of visitors to and from Australia. It is very encouraging to note that students from Bangladesh are increasingly turning to Australia to pursue their education interests. Over 6,000 students are now receiving the very high standards of education offered in Australia. Australia's wonderful climate and lifestyle combined with the relatively low cost of living and student fees will continue to make Australia an attractive education destination for Bangladesh students.
Our mutual love of cricket as our national game also provides an important linkage between our two countries. It would be remiss of me not to mention the wonderful triumph of Bangladesh over Australia during the one-day series in England in 2005, which is now etched into the proud sporting history of Bangladesh. Australia continues to support Bangladesh cricket through coach, umpire and high performance training programs and I join all Bangladeshi cricket lovers in anticipating the proposed forthcoming tour by the Australian cricket team.
It is an unfortunate reality that the world now faces a range of transnational challenges including people-smuggling, money laundering, the spread of communicable diseases and international terrorism. These are issues which will affect us all and have the potential to cause instability and fear. No country can by itself resolve these issues, which require bilateral, regional and multilateral approaches. Australia looks forward to working closely with Bangladesh to help address these emerging threats.
Our bilateral commercial and trade interests are continuing, although there is considerable scope for greater engagement. Bangladesh exporters have yet to take advantage of the benefits of duty-free and quota free access to the Australian marketplace. Australia has one of the strongest economies in the world - competitive, open and vibrant - and provides an attractive and affluent market for Bangladesh products. Australia remains a reliable and efficient supplier of goods, services and resources as well as a sound location for investment. Australian companies such as Wesfarmers Kleenheat Gas and SMEC International Pty Ltd continue to be engaged in Bangladesh. In addition, Australian expertise in areas such as mining and resources exploration offers an exciting outlook for future investment and commercial activity.
Cooperation in Development
Australia has a long and proud record of assisting partner countries, not only through aid, but importantly, through trade and investment liberalisation and through a proactive approach to security.
The Australian people have also responded with heartfelt generosity in times of crisis. This was never more evident than in the aftermath of the Indian Ocean tsunami when Australians gave more than A$340 million in private donations.
The Australian Government has committed to double its overseas aid spending to about A$4 billion a year by 2010. The boost in funding reflects Australia's commitment to assisting countries in the region meet their own development challenges.
As a development partner, Australia is committed to supporting Bangladesh's efforts to reduce poverty and promote good governance through targeted interventions. Bangladesh is the largest recipient of Australian development assistance in South Asia. Australia has assisted Bangladesh with food aid since Bangladesh's independence in 1971 and has provided scholarships to Bangladesh for more than 20 years. Today, our development partnership focuses particularly on supporting Bangladesh to reduce nutritional vulnerability, improve the quality of primary education, increase access to safe drinking water, inform public health policy, develop human resources and raise awareness about human rights. Our shared commitment to peace, stability, democracy and the welfare of our populations is critical in ensuring a safer world where the future can be faced with confidence and people have the opportunity to achieve their full potential.
2006 Commonwealth Games - "The Friendly Games"
In 2006 Australia will be the proud host of the 18th Commonwealth Games - the fourth occasion we have had such an honour.
The passage of the Queen's Baton Relay through Bangladesh in September 2005 provided the people of Bangladesh with the opportunity to be touched by the spirit of the 2006 Commonwealth Games and the response of the people involved in the event was overwhelming.
Melbourne is a perfect host for the 2006 Commonwealth Games, and I say that not only because it is my home town. The people of Melbourne take their sports seriously and each year the city plays host to world-class events such as the Australian Grand Prix and the Australian Open Tennis Championships. Melbourne hosted the Olympic Games with great success in 1956 and I have no doubt the city will be doing everything possible to ensure the success of these game as well.
On Wednesday 15 March at the opening ceremony in the newly-rebuilt and specially refurbished Melbourne Cricket Ground, Australia will welcome athletes and officials from all 71 Commonwealth nations to share the spirit of sport and culture at the 2006 Commonwealth Games.
In particular, Australia looks forward to welcoming athletes and officials from Bangladesh, to the 2006 Commonwealth Games. We wish the team great success in Melbourne, and I am sure that the team will make their nation proud in striving to build on Bangladesh's Commonwealth Games medal tally.
Australia's relations with Bangladesh are built on strong foundations. As members of the international community, both countries co-operate closely on matters of mutual interest in organizations such as the United Nations, the Commonwealth and in other multinational fora.
It is a personal honour for me to be able to extend my very best wishes to the Government and the people of Bangladesh for 2006. In my role as High Commissioner I look forward to building on the already strong foundations of our bilateral relationship.
HE Douglas Foskett
High Commissioner for Australia in Bangladesh


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