Australia Day celebrated in Doha

 08 Feb 2018 - 9:17

Australia Day celebrated in Doha
H E Mohamed bin Abdullah Al Rumaihi, Minister of Municipality and Environment (second right) cutting a cake with Dr Axel Wabenhorst (second left), Australian Ambassador to Qatar; and H E Ibrahim Yousif Abdullah Fakhro, Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Chief of Protocol (right) during the reception on Australia Day celebration in Doha yesterday. Pic: Abdul Basit/The Peninsula

By Raynald C Rivera | The Peninsula

DOHA: The Australian Embassy yesterday celebrated an auspicious occasion marking the first-ever Australia Day in Qatar with Australian food and music at Shangri-La Hotel Doha.

Speaking at the event, Australian Ambassador Dr Axel Wabenhorst underlined the vast potential of further bolstering bilateral ties between Qatar and Australia in many fields such as education, food security, tourism and trade and investment.

He underscored Australia Day as a significant occasion when “Australians come together and celebrate our nation.”  “Australia is a diverse country, and the most successful multicultural society in the world. Through this diversity, Australians are united by our values of freedom, democracy and the rule of law. We recognize the complexities and challenges of our history,” said the envoy.

As Qatar Airways further spreads its wings launching Canberra as its fifth destination to Australia next week, Ambassador Wabenhorst was optimistic it would further strengthen bilateral relations in the field of tourism. 

He also underlined the potential for more Qatari students to avail of Australia’s high-quality education system, which makes Australia the world’s third most popular destination for foreign students. 

He said Qatar is home to about 3300 Australians working in diverse sectors. 

There are about 30 Australian companies in Qatar, the biggest of which are in the engineering and construction field, participating in the construction of Hamad Port and the Qatar State Mosque, the hydrocarbon sector, the expansion of Khalifa Stadium and shopping centres.

“Official visitors to Qatar from Australia included the Minister for Foreign Affairs, who opened our Embassy, the Minister for Defence, a parliamentary delegation, and the South Australian Minister for Investment and Trade accompanied by senior government officials.  University professors, researchers and student groups further helped develop links.  We will build on these visits in the coming year,” he said.

The ambassador was of the view that global challenges such as climate change, terrorism and human trafficking can only be resolved through international cooperation.  

“Australia and Qatar are working together to counter-terrorism, through the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIL and Qatar’s hosting of the Al Udeid Air Base. At the start of this year, Australia joined the Human Rights Council, providing another avenue for cooperation.  We value and continue to seek the views of Qatar on regional and global challenges,” he said.

Amid the challenges brought about by the ongoing blockade, he lauded Qatar’s welcoming attitude towards all residents, including Australians, stressing Australia supports the mediation by Kuwait to resolve the dispute.

He reaffirmed Australia’s support for Qatar as it moves forward in its efforts towards self-sufficiency.

“Looking to the future, Qatar has embarked on a comprehensive program of development through its National Vision 2030.  And due to the GCC dispute, self-sufficiency has become more important. Australia is already contributing to Qatar reaching these goals, through the expertise of its citizens and the work of its companies in Qatar, and through our strength in agriculture.

There is scope to expand these areas of cooperation in future,” he said.

“Australia is the world’s driest continent. As a result, Australians have become experts in dryland farming.  As food security becomes a higher priority for Qatar because of the regional dispute, Australia is well-placed to support Qatar to grow more of its own food,” he said.

He added: “The investment of Hassad Food in Australian farms, worth approximately A$450m has benefited both countries by improving the productive capacity of the farms, and contributing to Qatar’s food security.”

“Qatar has other investments in Australia, including in electricity distribution infrastructure and real estate. Both countries benefit from this relationship, and I hope to see even more Qatari investment in future,” he said out.

He said total trade between Qatar and Australia is A$1.77bn per year and the new shipping line between the two countries can further facilitate trade.

In the field of education, Australia is working with Qatar on school curriculum design, including via provision of a vocational finance course in two Qatari high schools.  

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