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Speech by H.E. Peter Tesch, Ambassador to Germany, Switzerland and Liechtenstein, on the occasion of Australia Day 2010,
Berlin, 26 January 2010
Permit me to begin on a personal note by saying how pleased I am to be here, representing my country in the homeland of my forebears.
In a way this completes a circle which began almost 150 years ago, when Gottfried Ludwig Tesch and his family left the town of Angermuende to sail to the other side of the world …
… a circle which was expanded a little more than 60 years ago when, in 1949 - the year that the FRG was founded - my mother left her hometown of Weiden i.d. Oberpfalz to make the same journey.
My family’s story is but one small part of the deeply rooted history which – as we enter the second decade of the 21st century - underpins the strong, positive and expanding relationship between Germany and Australia.
Indeed, on this day, 222 years ago, the son of a German – Captain Arthur Philip, whose father moved from Frankfurt to London in the mid-18th century - landed on the shore of what is now known as Sydney Harbour to establish the first British colony in the Great Southern Land.
As we stand here, with the snow and ice outside, think for a moment about those people who have spent today in Australia, barbecuing on the beach, in the parks, beside their pools – celebrating a way and a quality of life which we think is pretty special and which continues to attract thousands of Germans each year to visit Australia –
• as tourists;
• under the Working Holiday Visa arrangement, which marks its tenth anniversary this year;
• as students, researchers and visiting lecturers;
• as investors.
But we should also spare a thought for the victims of the terrible disaster in Haiti and for those – Germans, Australians and many other nationalities – who are working hard on the ground to try to restore order, structure and hope to tens of thousands of lives that were shattered within minutes last week.
For in our combined response to this disaster is also the evidence of something which I want to emphasise here today – namely, the increasing connectedness between German and Australian interests – not just in our bilateral relationship, but also in relation to significant issues and challenges facing both our countries and, indeed, the world.
During his visit to Berlin last July, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Chancellor Merkel committed our governments to work closely together on a diverse agenda of regional and global issues, most prominent amongst which were:
• climate change;
• reforming regulatory environments and business practices to ensure sustainable global economic development and prevent a repeat of the financial crisis which has battered the globe;
• civilian reconstruction and capacity-building in Afghanistan;
• disarmament and security challenges – the latter now, regrettably, defined and understood in an ever widening sense beyond just non-proliferation and counter-terrorism; and
• development co-operation in Africa.
That’s a modest enough agenda! But it is striking that, as Chancellor Merkel said at the time, Australia and Germany share a common view in these and most other issues. And we have already registered progress on several of these:
• just before Christmas I signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Staatssekretaer Born in the Foreign Office under which Australia will contribute 3.5m euro to a German development project which will provide Afghanistan with a modern air traffic control system
o Australia will provide the back-up power infrastructure which will support the system in the event of mains power failure – and this power will be sourced from solar energy – a clean, green solution;
• the report of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-proliferation and Disarmament – which was established as a joint initiative of the governments of Japan and Australia – has been welcomed by the German government as a major contribution to the policy dialogue about practical, realistic efforts to achieve a nuclear-free world
o Germany played a key role in the work of the Commission through the active involvement of General a.D. Klaus Naumann, who was one of the international commissioners;
• Germany and Australia – and our heads of government personally – have worked tirelessly and in a closely co-ordinated way to try to achieve a legally binding successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol on climate change
o we are not there yet, but neither the Prime Minister nor the Chancellor lacks resolve!
• and, due in significant part to the combined efforts of Germany and Australia, the G20 has now established itself as the pre-eminent body for co-ordinating international efforts to work our way out of the global financial and economic crisis and to lay the foundations for sustainable economic growth in the future.
Our strong people-to-people links are complemented by on-going good contacts in the field of cultural exchange, and this year includes a number of particular highlights:
• From Berlin, the prestigious Schaubühne theatre company just had a very successful presence at the Sydney Festival, with 8 sold-out shows of Hamlet, and later in the year the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra is expected to tour Australia.
• In turn, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra will be in Germany for a number of concerts, including at the Rheingau-Festival, and the renowned Museum Ludwig in Cologne will present a major show of indigenous Australian art.
So it is an exciting time to be the Australian ambassador in Germany. As President Koehler said to me when I presented my credentials to him on 8 January, “es gibt hier in Deutschland eine sehr grosse Sympathie fuer Australien”.
I am delighted that is the case, and I can assure you that feeling is completely and warmly reciprocated. Australians have a great admiration and respect for Germany - including on the soccer field!
In that respect, I am prepared to suggest a diplomatic compromise would be a draw on 13 June. But I would also remind you that – as you would have seen in 2006 – you shouldn’t under-estimate the Socceroos! And, if we can persuade the world of the merits of our case, I hope that you will have the chance to see a German team compete in the Soccer World Cup in Australia in either 2018 or 2022.