home       biography       publications       speeches       organisations       images       @contact

Chancellor's Welcome to Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc

Welcome address to Vietnamese Prime Minister H.E. Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University, Canberra, 14 March 2018

It is my great pleasure to welcome to The Australian National University Prime Minister, Your Excellency Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh, Ambassador Huong Nam Ngo NGO, and the members of your large and high-level accompanying delegation.

It is indeed a great honour for Australia’s national university, and me personally, to host you here today. At a personal level, I first visited your great country 50 years ago, in 1968, at the height of the terrible war (not in order to fight anyone, but as a rather crazily adventurous backpacking student): and in my few short days I saw enough of the horror and misery of war, the terrible scars that it inflicted on everyone on both sides who experienced it, to make me a passionate advocate for peace and the avoidance of war ever since;

In the years since then I have visited Vietnam many times, particularly as Australia’s foreign minister, and have fond and lasting memories of those like my foreign ministerial colleagues Nguyen Co Thach and Nguyen Manh Cam with whom I worked closely, especially on the Cambodian peace settlement and on our very extensive development cooperation programs;

I have watched with delight, as we all have, over the last three decades Vietnam’s dramatic development from a very poor, war-ravished economy to a middle income country within a single generation, and your ever more engaged participation at the tables of the regional and global organizations where we both sit.

And wearing my current hat as Chancellor of Australia’s finest university, I have also been delighted, as all of us here have been, at the extent to which our own university, and the Australian higher education system generally, have been able:

  • to assist in the training of so many very able Vietnamese students (of whom there are now over 20,000 studying in Australia),
  • to collaborate with your very able academics on research projects (with ANU alone having partnership agreements with seven Vietnamese Universities),
  • and to continue to conduct high-level research ourselves on Vietnam and its role in the wider region, with at ANU our world-leading College of Asia and the Pacific, and all the entities which make it up like this Crawford School of Public Policy, leading the way

In all the years since my first visit I have, like so many of my fellow countryman – and I’m sure like all those here today - have been a strong advocate for ever closer ties between our two countries. So it is a particular delight to us all in this context, Prime Minister, that you should be taking the occasion of this week’s ASEAN-Australia Summit to be making a special visit to Australia, with your large and distinguished delegation, with the objective of taking our bilateral economic cooperation, and defence and security cooperation, to new levels - much to be applauded in the very uncertain international environment we are both now confronting.

Vietnam’s amazing economic development in recent decades, has been a result above all – as I know you acknowledge – of you opening your economy to international trade and investment under a rules-based international economic order. So much so that by one measure, Vietnam is now one of the most open economies in the world, up there with Singapore.

Australia has also benefited, and continues to benefit significantly from the international economic order set up after the Second World War, largely under the auspices of the United States. This international system of free trade and investment is now under threat, and it is obviously in the strategic interests of both our countries to make sure that this rules-based system of free trade and dispute resolution be kept robust into the future. I know that will be one of the themes of your official discussions here, and we will look forward to hearing today any thoughts you may have on the present trade state of play.

Turning from economic to security issues we will also look forward to anything you might care to say about the current regional security environment, and the new strategic partnership agreement you are signing with Australia during this visit. All of us here have I think noted, and applaud, your remarks in the press today, in the context of the very volatile environment now in the South China Sea that ‘it is important that all countries continue to uphold the rule of law, exercise restraint and refrain from the use of force or the threat of force’.

I, for one, can see much scope for effective bilateral collaboration between Australia and its major regional partners – not just Japan and India but very much Indonesia and Vietnam as well – in making clear what are the limits of acceptable behaviour when it comes to contested territorial claims, and what is unacceptable over-reach.

On the subject of rules-based systems, and the rule of law, I hope you will forgive me mentioning that it is important that all of us also take seriously those values in a domestic as well as international context. The ASEAN Charter of 2007 makes very clear the commitment of all ten member states to adhere to the principles of democracy, the rule of law and good governance, respect for and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, but I know you will be aware that there is increasing international concern that in many ASEAN states there has in recent times been a diminishing commitment to those core universal values. None of us is immune from criticism in this area – and I for one am extremely critical of our own national government’s performance, not least in our treatment of refugees -- but I hope this is an area we can discuss, as longstanding friends and partners, with the same frankness that we bring to our discussion of international and bilateral economic and security issues.

We are incredibly privileged to have Prime Minister Phuc here to address us today. Appointed 7th Prime Minister of the Socialist Public of Vietnam in April 2016, he had a long and distinguished pervious career in government and public service, since studying economic management at the Hanoi National Economic University in the 1970s -- as deputy prime minister from 2011, as director of a number of different government offices, and in provincial administration.

All of us wish you, Prime Minister Phuc, all the very best for your State visit to Canberra, and a successful ASEAN-Australia Summit. And I have pleasure now in inviting you to address us.