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Remarks welcoming Hainan delegation to Sydney

The Honourable Lu Zhiyuan, Assistant Governor of Hainan Province, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentleman, welcome to our big island!

Can I begin by acknowledging that we are meeting tonight on an ancient land, the land that has been home for thousands of years to the Cadigal people and this place, that we call Sydney today, the Cadigal people called – and still call – the Eora Nation.  So welcome to a land that has a long history as the home to the world’s longest continuing culture.

Welcome also to a new culture that is Sydney and Australia today, and perhaps nowhere better than Sydney could illustrate the wonderful combination of people who have come from all over the world to make their home and to build a culture that is open to the world and so much richer from our close friendships such as the one we are celebrating tonight.

Chinese have been visiting this country, and many hundreds of thousands making it their home, for many years, dating back almost two centuries.  In recent decades, of course, there has been a rapid growth in visitors, matching the growth in trade and investment that links our two countries in a relationship of mutual benefit.

In China, you have seen unprecedented change in the last three decades.  Hainan, as one of the early Special Economic Zones, is a fine example of the opening up to the world that has transformed the lives of hundreds of millions of people across China.  We congratulate you on the scale and success of this transformation and I see that the statistics show Hainan is one of China’s fastest growing provinces in recent years.

I am from Australia’s island state, Tasmania.  It is a small state of only half a million people but also has a special friendship with China.  I used to work for a former Premier of Tasmania, Jim Bacon.  He was a great innovator.  He believed in a new style of leadership based on the concept of partnership.  He built partnerships across the political divide, with business, with other levels of government and with the community to drive social and economic change in Tasmania.

As Premier, Jim Bacon would regularly visit China and he became a good friend of the Governor of Fujian Province, Xi Jinping.  It is not surprising that two innovative leaders would have enjoyed each other’s company.  Sadly, Jim Bacon died ten years ago.  Yet President Xi Jinping, on his recent visit to Australia, made a special point of spending a day in Hobart and including a personal visit to Jim Bacon’s family home.  That was a moving tribute to their friendship and symbolizes the many friendships that Australians and Chinese have developed.

In a world today with many complex problems and no simple solutions, leaders need space to listen respectfully to each other and to develop partnerships to work together on solutions.  I no longer work in government but manage leadership dialogues and deliberative processes that bring together political decision makers, academic and other experts, business and community leaders.

Tasmania is famous as a tourist destination but it is also a place that has innovated in leadership and in building partnerships through dialogue and deliberation.

Hainan is famous as a tourist destination and has also become famous for leadership dialogue.  The Boao Forum was founded by a group of world leaders, including former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke, and is based in Hainan.  There, people come from all over the world to engage, listen respectfully to each other’s perspectives and to develop a deeper understanding of critical challenges and opportunities.

So whether it is for leadership dialogue or to enjoy Hainan’s unique scenery or to lie on one of Hainan’s beautiful beaches, I encourage all Aussies here tonight to visit.  If we want to build stronger understanding, we need to get to know each other.  And that goes for the people of Hainan, too, who I encourage to visit Australia and to get to know us better.  To the delegation here tonight, enjoy the rest of your visit, and I look forward to visiting Hainan in the near future.

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