November 22, 2021

On behalf of the member for Chifley, I move:

That this House:

(1) recognises that 2021 marks 75 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Australia and the Philippines;

(2) celebrates the strength of the bilateral diplomatic relations between Australia and the Philippines over those 75 years;

(3) reaffirms the strong relationship between Australia and the Philippines; and

(4) acknowledges the importance of effective diplomatic relations with the Philippines, which are underpinned by our shared history and deep enduring relationship.

I proudly second the member for Chifley's formal motion, which goes to celebrating the 75th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Australia and the great nation of the Philippines. It's a testament to the work of the member for Chifley and the member for Greenway in their local communities around the Blacktown area of Sydney, which has probably the greatest concentration of Filipino Australians in Australia. I pay tribute to their fine work in that area.

This motion celebrates the strength of the bilateral diplomatic relationship, reaffirms the importance of the relationship and acknowledges the shared history and deep, enduring friendship between our two countries. Diplomatic relations were established in the aftermath of a global war which cost both our nations—indeed, all the nations of the Asia-Pacific—dearly. It was a relationship forged in battle. The Leyte landings in the Philippines were one of the decisive battles of the war in the Pacific. More than 4,000 Australian soldiers took part in the landings and in the campaign to liberate the Philippines during 1944 and 1945. In several actions, escaped Australian prisoners of war fought alongside Filipino guerrilla forces on Mindanao, and, after the war, Australia opened its first diplomatic mission in Manila in May 1946—only a few weeks before the proclamation of independence for the Philippines.

In Australia, the Chifley government's vision for a postwar future for Australia rested on forging new diplomatic, political and economic relationships in our emerging post-colonial society. In the Philippines, the country's leaders saw Australia as a natural partner for the Filipino people as the country became an independent nation looking to rebuild a land levelled by war. In fact, President Roxas said: 'Inalienable human rights mean the same thing in Melbourne as in Manila—democracy, free elections, a secret ballot, free speech, free press and free assembly. All of these have an identical significance for our two countries.' On the next day the Australian Prime Minister, Ben Chifley, responded with a message congratulating President Roxas on the inauguration of Filipino independence.

And so Australia and the Philippines embarked on their journey of postwar reconstruction as friends and partners. Over the decades since that moment the relationship has flourished and expanded. Part of that is a strong development relationship. Australia will provide $79 million in development assistance to the Philippines in 2021-22. That assistance supports programs to improve the health, education and economic welfare of people in the Philippines.

Of course, there are extensive people-to-people links. The richness of Australia's multicultural society has been enhanced by the presence of a large, vibrant, hardworking Filipino community in this country. As at June 2020 there were 310,000 persons born in the Philippines living in Australia, making Filipinos Australia's fifth-largest migrant community. I want to particularly acknowledge the contribution of the Filipino community in my electorate of Shortland, particularly the Filipino-Australian Society of the Hunter Valley, which celebrates its 40th anniversary this year.

One of the highlights of my year as a member of parliament is the celebration of Philippines Independence Day. This celebration is one of the few community events that is a must-attend for myself and my wife, Keara. We always enjoy the warmth and hospitality of FASHVI members at this special celebration. I'm also proud that FASHVI have their headquarters in Shortland and I'm very pleased to have supported them over the years, most recently with a grant of solar panels for their hall. While our community might not be as big as the one around Blacktown in Sydney, we're proud to have the only Filipino-Australian owned community hall in the country. It's a great local claim to fame.

I want to spend the remaining seconds acknowledging that one of the great professions that Filipino Australians are overrepresented in is nursing and health care. They do tremendous work in our hospitals and our aged-care homes, and during the COVID pandemic they risked their lives every single day in making sure every Australian had access to quality health care. This is a testament to the commitment of Filipino Australians to this country, to making this country a better place and to helping their homeland of the Philippines as well. On the anniversary of our relationship, I want to say thank you so much for your continued support to make these two great countries even better.