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Address to the Parliamentary lunch for Premier Li Keqiang, Canberra



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THE HON. BILL SHORTEN MP LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION

SHADOW MINISTER FOR INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS AND ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDERS

MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG

ADDRESS TO THE PARLIAMENTARY LUNCH FOR PREMIER LI KEQIANG

THE GREAT HALL, PARLIAMENT HOUSE

THURSDAY, 23 MARCH 2017

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Good afternoon

I wish to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet and pay my respects to their eldest both past and present.

Premier Li Keqiang, Madam Cheng Hong, on behalf of the Australian people, it is my great pleasure too, to warmly welcome you both to our parliament and our country.

I heartily endorse the heartfelt remarks of the Prime Minister.

But I think also, unexpectedly, your visit is a joyous moment on a solemn day as both our nations stand in solidarity with the British people.

Premier, 46 years ago, our two famous predecessors; Labor Leader Gough Whitlam and Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai shook hands at the end of an historic meeting.

As the two men prepared to part, the Premier reflected how when he offered his hand to the United States Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles at the end of the 1954 Geneva conference, he was ignored.

And as he said to Gough, "All things develop from small beginnings".

A few days later, Whitlam was in Tokyo and Premier Zhou was shaking hands with Henry Kissinger.

The era of China's isolation was over and never again would Australia choose to make itself a stranger in Asia.

Our world, our region, our two nations have changed profoundly since that first handshake.

Leadership from both nations, and from both sides of politics, has brought us together.

Back in 1971, too much of Australia's engagement in Asia had been defined by conflict.

Young men and women sent to war in the Pacific and Korea, the Malaya emergency, Konfrontasi and the jungle dark of Vietnam.

China, meanwhile, was almost unrecognisable then from the superpower we see now.

In the days of the first famous Australian visit, China had international airline connections with three cities: Moscow, Pyongyang and Hanoi.

So it meant for the Australian delegation - including 9 slightly impatient members of our marvellous media - after a 5-day wait in Hong Kong, a slow and sticky train ride to the border, then another train to Guangzhou, another wait, then a Russian plane to Beijing.

It was more than a week door to door.

But tomorrow, from my home town in Melbourne, there are ten different flights leaving for Beijing. A metropolis now home to 22 million people.

One of 100 Chinese cities with a population greater than 1 million - itself a remarkable number, yet predicted to double by 2025.

China is responsible for more people being lifted out of poverty than ever before in human history.

People driven by a powerful desire for improvement in their living standards, in their educational opportunities and in their human rights.

And a China which looks outward. The development of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, in particular, will help our region find solutions to the challenges that we all face: from taking action on climate change, to the future of urban transport and energy.

And once, where our two nations may have reached out to each other with some uncertainty or hesitation, today we share the embrace of friendship and the common purpose of partnership.

Building closer economic ties, the breaking down of trade barriers, the signing of new agreements, the opening-up of currency exchange.

Maintaining peace, with respect for each other, for all in the region, for international treaties and norms.

Nourishing stronger connections between our citizens: friendships forged through cultural exchange, through art, music, dance, and through the tens of thousands of Chinese students who choose Australian universities.

And Premier, as you wrote in your opinion piece yesterday, connections through tourism.

“Getting to know one another better” by experiencing the wonders of our two great homelands.

On that note, I am especially pleased that you are getting to a game of Australian Rules football this weekend, to celebrate the fact that Port Adelaide and Gold Coast will be playing for premiership points in Shanghai in May.

As the Chinese people fall in love with Australia's great Indigenous football code, I dream of a day when the Collingwood Football Club will have a billion members.

Australian farmers and producers are proud to cater for a growing Chinese middle class, from wine and beer to beef and milk powder.

Australian graduates and scientists are proud to be part of China's world-leading takeup of solar power.

And Australia's financial services industry is proud to be part of helping a generation of Chinese people plan for security and dignity in retirement.

And it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the marvellous contribution of the Chinese diaspora in Australia to Australian life.

No-one ever complains when a Chinese family move next door, when a small business is set up in a suburb or regional town of Australia.

The simple fact is that Chinese-Australians make great Australians and we are grateful for their contribution today and every day.

To conclude today, we celebrate the great things that have come from small beginnings.

Australia and China share a region. We share a marketplace, we share a home and we share a responsibility to strive for peace and progress.

Premier, as you have noted, we both sing anthems with the word "advance".

Together, let us advance our understanding.

Together, let us advance our partnership.

Together, let us advance our cooperation and above all, together, let us advance our friendship.

Welcome to Australia. Enjoy your stay.

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