His Majesty to enhance relations with Australia
Hakim Hayat

HIS Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam is heading to Australia for a three-day state visit starting tomorrow at the invitation of Quentin Bryce, Governor-General of Australia, a press statement from the Australian Prime Minister’s Office said yesterday.

His Majesty will be in Australia as a guest of the Australian Government from May 1 to 3 where he will meet Prime Minister Julia Gillard in Australia’s capital Canberra, and will call on the Governor-General and attend a State Lunch held in his honour at the Government House, the statement added.

Prime Minister Gillard in the statement said, “Australia was one of the first countries to establish diplomatic relations with Brunei and we enjoy a warm and constructive relationship based on strong education, trade, security, and people-to-people links.

“His Majesty’s visit provides an important opportunity to enhance our bilateral relationship and to deepen our regional engagement,” Ms Gillard added.

Australia and Brunei enjoy a warm relationship dating back to well before 1959 and the relationship has strengthened in recent years with growing links across a range of areas, including defence and security, education and trade.

His Majesty made his first official visit to Australia in February 2005, visiting again in September 2007 for the Apec Summit in Sydney. The monarch’s last visit to Australia was in October 2011 to attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth where he also briefly met Bruneian students there.

Governor-General Quentin Bryce was in Brunei for a State Visit in October last year.

Trade and investment are an important focus of Australia’s bilateral relationship with Brunei.

According to the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), total direct bilateral trade with Brunei in 2011-2012 amounted to $1.38 billion, with Australia’s imports of crude petroleum from Brunei comprising just over $1.34 billion.

Brunei was ranked as Australia’s 35th largest merchandise trading partner in 2011-12.

Australia’s merchandise exports to Brunei in 2011 totalled $37 million, consisting mainly of food and food products including meat excluding beef ($5 million), live animals ($5 million), beef ($3 million) and specialised machinery and parts ($3 million).

In the services sector, a number of Australian teachers and other professionals work in Brunei.

In 2011-12, Australia’s service exports to Brunei (mainly education) were worth $45 million. Australia is now the second preferred destination for Bruneian students.

On the occasion of Governor-General Quentin Bryce’s visit in October last year, His Majesty in a titah praised the strong bond shared by both nations, 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”.

Governor-General Quentin Bryce in her speech in Brunei praised the strong education and training relationship between the two nations have and said they are keen to facilitate linkages between Australian and Bruneian education institutions, including increasing the number of Bruneian students undertaking Australian tertiary courses.

The defence relationship between Brunei and Australia has also flourished over the years with extensive avenues of engagement including strategic dialogue, bilateral military exercises and technical assistance. Military exercises conducted with the Royal Brunei Armed Forces (RBAF) include reciprocal army and navy exercises. Australia also provides some training and military expertise.

Brunei is also an important partner for Australia in the Commonwealth, Apec, the EAS, the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations, and multilateral organisations like the UN and WTO. Brunei was the Asean Coordinator in negotiations for the Asean-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA), which was signed in Thailand on February 27, 2009 and entered into force on January 1, 2010. - Borneo Bulletin (30 April 2013)