Hon. Minister Stefan Zrinzo Azzopardi,
Hon. Minister Chris Bowen,
High Commissioner Farrugia Borg,
Hon. Simon Birmingham,
Assistant Secretary Jane Hardy,
Acting Chief of Protocol Sophia Knight,
Allow me to say a few words in Maltese to introduce my speech.
Għeżież ħutna Maltin u Għawdxin,
Ninsab ferm kuntent fostkom, hekk kif qed inwettaq din iż-żjara fl-Awstralja.
Niskuża ruħi li marti Miriam ma setgħatx tkun magħna; minħabba raġunijiet ta’ saħħa kellha tiddeċiedi li ma tiġix miegħi.
Għad għandi memorji sbieħ ta’ żewġ żjarat oħra li kelli hawnhekk fl-1997 u fl-2010.
Waħda meta kont Ministru tal-Affarijiet Barranin l-ewwel darba, u l-oħra bħala Membru Parlamentari.
Ninnota b’sodisfazzjon kbir li l-entużjażmu u l-imħabba tagħkom lejn Malta ma naqsu xejn min dak iż-żmien ‘l hawn. Għalkemm dan il-pajjiż sar id-dar tagħkom, tafu aktar minni li r-rabta ma’ Malta ma tieqafx mat-tluq lejn artijiet oħra.
Tmur lil’ hinn minn hekk.
Tul iż-żminijiet, il-bżulija, il-qalb tajba, il-kapaċita’ u d-determinazzjoni komplew jispikkaw fid-diaspora Maltija, mhux hawnhekk biss. Intom, il Maltin u l-Għawdxin tal-Awstralja tagħmlu parti kbira mill-familja Maltija mxerrda madwar id-dinja.
Grazzi talli lqajtu din l-istedina u nixtieq li wara dawn il-kelmtejn, ikolli l-okkażjoni nitkellem ma’ xi wħud minnkom ilkoll.
I will now switch to English to elaborate my thoughts on today’s celebration and the importance we attach to the relationship between Malta and Australia.
I am very pleased to address you this evening on this auspicious occasion which, is made even more special as we are celebrating here together the Independence Day of Malta.
This is a very momentous day for our country, as it marks the day we achieved a significant step towards the achievement of statehood.
It brought us near to the goal of self-determination that our fathers and our forefathers had fought for, for decades, if not centuries. It was one small step in the beginning of the long journey towards becoming the country that Malta has become today, where all decisions concerning the Maltese nation’s future, are in the hands of the Maltese people themselves.
This steady political development, taking us from a British Colony to becoming a sovereign nation, in a period of forty years is a certificate of the strong will and character of the Maltese people, who proudly show the world that despite our small size and lack of natural resources, a small island nation like us is not only able to survive – but also thrive and whats more punch well above its weight.
Today, we salute and pay respect to all those who in a way or another have contributed in building the solid foundations of a sovereign and independent Malta in international fora.
This milestone was the first step in a chain of three other closely linked episodes in our political history which helped us construct modern Malta.
The acquisition of Independence in 1964 was crucial for Malta to eventually become a Republic in 1974, and witness the closure of the British military base on the island three years later in 1979. More recently in 2004, our cycle of independence and statehood was completed by obtaining full membership of the European Union, where we share our sovereignty with that of another twenty-six like-minded big and small European countries, all bent on obtaining security, stability and prosperity in a previously war-torn region.
As we look back to almost six decades of Independence, there is plenty to celebrate and to be proud of.
In spite of our faults, we can boast of a growing and diversified economy, a strong and healthy democracy, a generous welfare state, a comprehensive national healthcare service and education system and a thriving business environment.
These achievements should be for us a source of unity, pride and satisfaction.
We have lots of imperfections, there are many issues that still merit serious soul-searching and there are also episodes, that it would have been better, had never happened.
But all in all, we look back with pride, and look forward towards the future with resolve and determination to build a better Malta.
The success of one country is not measured by the contentedness and wealth of its people only. It is also measured by the number of lasting friendships it has forged over the years. You will agree that this is certainly the case for Malta and Australia.
Relations between Malta and Australia date farther than the formal establishment of our diplomatic relations in 1964. As many of you know, Malta’s ties with Australia can be traced originally to the 19th Century. Already then, Australia represented hope, new opportunities, and possibilities for many Maltese especially the bleak social conditions prevailing at that time in our country.
In spite of the difficulties in travel, the long distances, the lack of means of communication and the differences in the way of life, many Maltese flourished in their new adoptive home, through sheer determination, resilience, hard work and a measure of sweat and tears.
The courage of these pioneers, their tenacity, and hard work, which ultimately characterised the Maltese worker who had decided to emigrate practically into the unknown, have assisted in no small way to the easing of massive unemployment in Malta, especially in the devastating aftermath of World War II.
I want to take this occasion to salute many of you, your parents and grandparents who were bold and courageous enough to take this step, more often out of necessity rather than choice. It is thanks to you and to your indomitable spirit and courage of these migrants, that today we boast such a vibrant Maltese diaspora which has spread all over Australia and is now part and parcel of the Australian Community.
Young men and women of Maltese extraction, over the years achieved fulfilment in various professions, and as expected rendered sterling service to the Australian community they form part of in commerce, medicine, law, administration and politics.
Aside from this kinship, Malta and Australia enjoy excellent bilateral relations.
These strong ties have since their inception, been sustained by the several similarities that our countries share with one another. These commonalities continue to strengthen the nature of our bilateral relations, moving our two countries ever closer together. Over the years, we have developed a political rapport which has resulted in many high-level exchanges and a robust corpus of agreements.
Malta and Australia are united by democratic values, respect for human rights and the rule of law, and a long-standing commitment to promoting international peace and security.
As a European Union member state, Malta attaches great significance to the relationship between the EU and Australia. In this regard, Malta will continue to strive for closer EU-Australia relations and will also continue to participate positively in the dialogue between Australia and the EU, in the EU’s relationship with the Association if South Eastern Nations, where Australia is a Dialogue Partner, as well as in the development of the EU’s Indo-Pacific Strategy.
Finally, it is our hope that Malta and Australia will continue working together within the Commonwealth of Nations. Malta has been honoured with membership to the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group and we promise our commitment towards playing an active role in ensuring that democratic principles, human rights, rule of law and freedoms are upheld in the Commonwealth and beyond.
Looking ahead, I am confident that our relations will continue to develop and flourish on the basis of sincere friendship, mutual respect and understanding for the benefit of our citizens, and the security, stability and the prosperity in our respective regions.
Speaking of friendship and cooperation between countries as we are doing on Malta and Australia, makes us reflect on the fact that we meet at a time of global upheaval and transformation.
Our world has never been more threatened or more divided.
War is back on the European continent.
The images of brutality, senseless destruction and untold human suffering reaching us from Ukraine are testimony of the need to prioritise the interests of humanity over political and military aspirations, to cultivate a mentality of peace, rather than one of war.
As this senseless war rages on, we will persevere with our outright condemnation towards Russia’s illegal aggression and maintain our unequivocal support to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Equally deplorable are the events in the Middle East that followed Hamas violence on Israeli citizens; a massive flare-up in the long-simmering feud between Israelis and Palestinians, which has defied resolution for all these years.
Our sincere appeal in these tragic circumstances is for solutions to be found, through well-intentioned diplomatic negotiations in full respect to the rule of law and adherence to international legislation.
Furthermore, transnational threats to our collective security, like terrorism, organised crime, and unregulated migration continue to have a serious impact on the stability of the world.
Climate change and the rise in sea level are posing an existential threat to low-lying island nations and coastal countries because seas are encroaching upon their land.
Despite this grim picture of the reality around us, I believe we should not be alienated from hope and the possibilities that lie ahead of us.
Indeed, Malta’s aspiration to serve on the United Nations Security Council for the term 2023-2024 stemmed from our strong willingness to contribute to the maintenance of international peace and security in a meaningful manner.
As has been stated in professional sociological circles, “the meaning of our lives depends importantly on our visions for the future. Without the possibility of a future, there is nothing left but despair. Thus, if we give up on the future, we give up on ourselves.”
In close collaboration with likeminded partners and friends like Australia, we will continue to be a voice for positive action while remaining true to our longstanding vocation of promoting dialogue and diplomacy – for the benefit and well-being of present and future generations.
Allow me to conclude by thanking you all, for participating in this auspicious event, for welcoming me and my delegation so warmly this evening and for listening as attentively, to what I had to say.
I invite you to raise your glasses to celebrate Malta’s success and its continued, strong friendship with Australia.