Good afternoon to you all.
It’s a pleasure to be here at Doltone House to talk to the Chamber.
Now as you can probably guess from my accent, I am neither Australian nor Lebanese.
I’m here by way of Hong Kong and I have spent more of my life in Asia than anywhere else. What I do know from the many years I have spent in Australia in the late 80s and more recently as ANZ’s Chief Executive, is the relationship between Australia and Lebanon is a rich and deep one.
It is a relationship that goes back many, many years and has produced some of Australia’s great leaders - and as importantly for Australia - some of this country’s greatest sports people.
I have to say though ….. it did come as surprise to find that Rugby League, Rugby Union and Australian Rules Football were traditional Lebanese games.
This close relationship between Australia and Lebanon is not just based on economics, sport or because of its long history. The close relationship is based on people.
Lebanese Australians, of whom there are around 300 000, contribute to the wonderful and varied cultural make up of Australia’s population on a wide range of fronts … business, sport, food, the professions and political and community leaders like Steve Bracks and Marie Bashir.
Equally, I know that the 20 to 25 000 Australian passport holders who call Lebanon home contribute greatly to Lebanon’s society.
Although, Australia’s trade with Lebanon has fallen in recent years as economic growth in Lebanon has softened, we look forward to the barriers to commerce between Australia and Lebanon easing and Australia’s trade relationship with Lebanon being restored to its full potential.
When I spoke in Melbourne earlier this year, I remarked on today’s volatile markets.
Then sub-prime and associated write downs by major banks were $160 billion - more than the annual GDP of New Zealand.
Today, back in Sydney, sub-prime losses stand at around $400 billion which is close to the Gross Domestic Product of Belgium.