His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam praised the close relationship and long-standing cooperation Brunei Darussalam and Australia have shared in many areas of common interest, which the monarch said has brought a great sense of mutual respect, understanding and partnership.
"Our close cooperation lies at the heart of our political, commercial, economic and social work together," the monarch said in a titah last night during a State Banquet hosted by His Majesty and Her Majesty Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajah Saleha in honour of the Governor-General of Australia, Ms Quentin Bryce's three-day State Visit.
Also present during the State Banquet at the Istana Nurul Iman were HRH Prince Haji Sufri Bolkiah; YAM Pengiran Bini Hajah Faizah; HRH Prince Haji 'Abdul 'Azim; HRH Prince 'Abdul Malik; HRH Princess Hajah Rashidah Sa'adatul Bolkiah; HRH Princess Hajah Majeedah Nuurul Bolkiah; HRH Princess Hajah Masna, Ambassador-at-Large at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade as well as other members of the royal family.
The strong bond between both nations, His Majesty said, is signified by the many Australians who work in Brunei and the many Bruneians pursuing higher education in Australia, which he called a "synergy that exists between our peoples and communities".
His Majesty also said he is pleased that much of the focus of cooperation is in the education field, where over 400 Bruneians are studying in Australian colleges and universities.
"We look forward to their contribution to Brunei's development when they return equipped with the knowledge and skills they acquire in Australia," the ruler added.
His Majesty added that the cooperation also strengthens the vital work both sides are doing today in trade relations and in joint security measures.
As Brunei takes over the chairmanship of Asean next year, His Majesty expressed his appreciation to Australia for the support and encouragement extended to Brunei as Asean's oldest dialogue partner. "All our relations are conducted against this backdrop of friendship, mutual support and shared values," His Majesty said.
Meanwhile, in her return speech, Ms Quentin Bryce said both nations have a great deal in common, a shared past, a positive present and a bright future. "I am confident that the bonds of friendship between our two countries are as strong as ever, and I'm optimistic that they will continue to grow and strengthen," she said.
Although formal diplomatic relations between Australia and Brunei date back to Brunei's independence in 1984, she said our contacts go back further than this. "There is no more potent tie than that established in war," she added.
In June 1945, Australian servicemen liberated Brunei from occupation and today, she will visit the Brunei-Australia Memorial at Muara Beach to lay a wreath in memory of the Australian soldiers who paid the ultimate price in defence of freedom.
As a key element to the warm bilateral relationship, she said this year sees the close cooperation between the Australian and Bruneian defence forces, including in regular joint military exercises. "Many Bruneian officers have trained in Australia, and I have met some of them as Governor-General and Commander-in-Chief," she added.
On Australia-Brunei trade links, she said they are in good shape. "We share many common concerns with regard to economic cooperation, particularly the priority we attach to open and non-discriminatory trade," she said.
Another mainstay, she said, is education links. "Australia is the second most popular destination for Bruneian students and we hope that enrolments will continue to grow steadily. We welcome your young men and women, particularly, as their connection with Australia at a formative stage of their lives will enhance our nations' friendship in future years," she said.
She also praised the connections at institutional level such as that between Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) and the University of Queensland, which she said are valuable investments.
She said Australia also values Brunei's engagement in their region and are grateful for Brunei's friendship and guidance as both nations seek to enhance relations with its neighbours and the wider international community. "May I congratulate you in anticipation of Brunei's chairmanship of Asean next year. Australia has a long association with Asean - we were Asean's first dialogue partner - and wish you well for a successful and memorable term as chair," she added.
Since Australia's largest Free Trade Agreement (FTA), the Asean-Australia-New Zealand FTA entered into force in 2010, she said as both counties have been involved in negotiations in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement since they commenced. "The partnership aims to deliver a truly contemporary agreement which would build on existing arrangements and serve as a building block for Asia-Pacific regional economic integration," she said.
She added that Australia and Brunei also work closely together in APEC and global fora, including the World Trade Organization and the United Nations. "Should Australia's bid for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council succeed later this month, Brunei can be assured that it will have a very good friend in this key international body," she said.
People-to-people links best reflect the warmth of bilateral relationship between both countries, she said. "Exchanges and contacts between our defence personnel, our students, our business people, our diplomats and other officials, will go from strength to strength," she added.
She went on to express her pleasure of meeting yesterday with members of the Australian community in Brunei. "I was very impressed with the affection they feel for Brunei and the pride they take in contributing as teachers, engineers, pilots and other professionals. There is much potential to develop these links.
"I am delighted to have this opportunity to celebrate our nations' friendship - one in which mutual respect and affection play a major part," she said.
- Borneo Bulletin
(4 October 2012)