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To my fellow Parliamentary colleagues from Federal, State and Local Government; His Excellency the Ambassador of Lebanon of the Consul General in Sydney, to our many distinguished religious leaders,
It is an absolute pleasure to be here tonight at the launch of Sayed Mikhael’s book, ‘Open Heart’ and I thank Sayed for extending an invitation to me.
This book showcases visits to Australia from Lebanese officials, whether they are government officials or involved in media, sports and the arts, and considers the positive impact that these visits have had on the Lebanese community in Australia.
Australia is home to over 74,000 Lebanese-born citizens and over 350,000 citizens of Lebanese descent.
Our bilateral relationship is important, with our two-way merchandise trade amounting to $47 million during 2011-2012.
This included over $35 million in Australian exports and over $12 million in Lebanese imports.
It is a relationship that Australia hopes will continue to strengthen long into the future.
Ensuring peace, stability and security to people of Lebanon has always been a priority to the Australian Government.
Australia has contributed nearly $30 million in aid to Lebanon providing assistance to de-mining and post-conflict activities.
We have always encouraged those who come here seeking to build a better lifestyle to take advantage of the opportunities that are available in our great country.
The Lebanese culture has truly enriched our society and I would like to recognise some very prominent Lebanese-Australians who have made tremendous contributions to the Australian community: Her Excellency Dr Marie Bashir, Governor of New South Wales, the Hon Steve Bracks, former Premier of Victoria and Hazem El Masri, former star player of the Canterbury Bulldogs.
Finally I wish to congratulate Sayed on the launch of his book and thank him for his contribution.
This book is a product of a lot of dedication, blood, sweat and tears.
I wish Sayed every success with ‘Open Hearts’ and continued success with future publications.