PRIME MINISTER: Well thank you very much, Prime Minister Phúc, and thank you to your Excellencies and Your Majesty for the opportunity for Australia to join with you today, our ASEAN friends. So many friends who I see on the screen before me today. And I extend our warmest regards and kindest wishes to you all and what is a very difficult time, I know, throughout our region.
Congratulations also Prime Minister Phúc on this first virtual ASEAN Australian summit. Indeed, I’m sure we would have all preferred to be there with you in Vietnam as I was last year. But I congratulate you in such a difficult year of being able to bring together the summit in this way and our appreciation to you and and all of those who have assisted with this outcome.
I want to commend Vietnam and ASEAN for leading a strong response to COVID-19 in the spirit of a cohesive and responsive ASEAN. COVID has changed much, as we know. But ASEAN remains united as always and Australia’s commitment to a region of sovereign, independent states, resilient to coercion, remains absolutely steadfast.
We are more than your neighbour, as your first dialogue partner we are also your partner in the great recovery that is now occurring. ASEAN’s centrality is at the core of Australia’s vision for the Indo-Pacific. We strongly support, as I’ve said on many occasions to you, the ASEAN outlook for the Indo-Pacific and we remain committed to working with the region and helping the region recover from COVID-19.
In Australia we understand that your prosperity is our prosperity. It matters to us and we’re very committed to it.
Under our partnerships recovery policy. We are turning this into real action once again. Australia recently committed some $500 million dollars over three years to support access to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines for South-East Asia and the Pacific. Equitable access to safe, effective and affordable vaccines for COVID-19 will be the central factor in our collective recovery.
The support that this provides, gives us all, and particularly throughout the region, new choices based on health and science and the best health and science, and reflects our shared stake in your recovery.
As part of this package we will also contribute $21 million dollars to the ASEAN Centre for Public Health Emergencies and Emerging Diseases, which was launched last Thursday.
And I want to outline some new initiatives to support ASEAN’s economic recovery as well. Again, in the spirit of a cohesive and responsive ASEAN and our partnership with you.
The first initiative is $70 million for Resilience and Recovery in Southeast Asia. The package is in line with ASEAN’s priorities. Your priorities, maritime, connectivity, sustainable development and economic cooperation.
The second, even more targeted, is a $232 million dollar package for the Mekong, focussed on the environment, infrastructure, cyber and critical technologies, and scholarships. A prosperous and resilient Mekong is an important part, as I know all members of ASEAN know, a strong ASEAN.
As a longstanding supporter of the initiative for ASEAN integration Australia has been working with you to close the development gap. These announcements come on top of the $83 million dollars in assistance to ASEAN my Foreign Minister announced earlier this year, including the $1 million dollars for the ASEAN COVID-19 response fund. And on top of our $1 billion dollar annual development assistance for South East Asia.
It goes to what Australia brings to ASEAN, a constructive approach, options, balance and deep friendship. This is what we do as neighbours and as strategic partners. And I look forward to hearing from all of you today, particularly as you’ve dealt with the many challenges of COVID-19. And I commend all leaders who are joining us today for your leadership in each of your own countries. It has been a very difficult year for all of us, but here in our region we are doing all we can for the betterment of our peoples.
Thank you so much for your attention.