News & Events 2013
Lunch in Honour of the Australian High Commissioner Designate (20th December 2013)
20th December 2013
AOn behalf of the International Circle and AMBCQ, Shona Anikka Leppanen-Gibson and I had the privilege of hosting the Australian High Commissioner Designate to Malaysia His Excellency Rod Smith PSM, who was in Brisbane in late 2013. Rod Smith is a senior diplomat who replaced His Excellency Miles Kupa in January 2014. We had a lovely lunch and were able to hold serious discussions but within a very friendly and relaxed environment. Our other guests included senior representatives and CEOs from aviation, major infrastructure management, medical research, engineering, banking, railways, finance and investment, international development and consulting and training industries.
Kiong (Wai Kiong CHAN)
Christmas is still Christmas at AMBCQ (December 2013)
AWe had a couple of gatherings to celebrate Christmas this year. We always wish all stakeholders ‘Happy Christmas’ or ‘Merry Christmas’ rather than the extremist political correctness version of ‘Season’s Greetings’. After all, we do not celebrate ‘Seasons’ but we celebrate ‘Christmas’.
Perplexed by the tendency of some in government and some in private organisations in Australia to stop using the word ‘Christmas’ and replace it with ‘Seasons’ because they pander to some intolerant elements in the migrant community, I asked many of the leaders and members of various non-traditional communities such as the Singaporeans, Taiwanese, Chinese, Ceylonese Tamils, and Indians. I am happy to report that there was unanimous surprise and dismay that political correctness had gotten so extreme that governments and organisations were cowered into being afraid of the word ‘Christmas’. One non-Christian civic leader said to me that what was happening “is wrong and is terrible. Christmas is part of the Australian culture, and governments and businesses should not try to change it”. It was a sentiment echoed by many others.
Merry Christmas to one and all!
Kiong (Wai Kiong CHAN)
Premier's Reception for the Indian Community
This year we again attended the Queensland Premier's reception for the Indian community at Queensland Parliament House. As usual we attended with our family and several good friends, and also caught up with many Indian business and community leaders - many of them old friends of Shona Leppanen-Gibson's.
The wonderful concept of such receptions at Parliament can to a significant extent be attributed to our mentors (the late) Peter and Mrs Alice Yeoh who helped to introduce these Parliamentary receptions many years ago.
It was also great to catch up with our friends Freya Ostapovitch MP, Steve Minnikin MP (Assistant Minister for Public Transport), the Hon. Ian Walker MP (Minister for Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts), Tarnya Smith MP (Assistant Minister for Child Safety), The Hon Scott Emerson MP (Minister for Transport and Main Roads), Ian Berry MP and others, sorry we missed catching up with you.
After the cocktail at Parliament, we went to an Indian Malaysian restaurant for a lovely meal.
Kiong (Wai Kiong CHAN)
MIDA Delegation to the Gold Coast and Logan City with AMBCQ
It was an action-packed week of serious meetings and site visits. Happily much of it was also very enjoyable. What a great week it was:
1. We stayed at a casino (MIDA stayed at another hotel)
2. Attended Schoolies Week (more like Schoolies Week revellers accosted our delegation)
3. Had a bird's eye view of the coast from the observation deck of Q1 building
4. Talked to volunteers
5. Looked at illegal and noxious fish in a pond (they better get rid of these fish!!)
6. Examined vegetable patches
7. Met some friendly black swans
8. Met with Logan City Councillor and Deputy Mayor and trade and economic development officials
9. Visited an international school for a business meeting
10. Went to a golf course and golf academy for a business meeting
11. Visited a library
12. Had a business meeting and private tour of Warner Bros Movie World guided by the theme park bosses themselves
13. Crossed the Queensland-NSW state border eight times
14. Enjoyed a lovely sunset on Mt Tamborine
15. Fended off wild rainbow lorikeets while we enjoyed Polish cakes and Polish hot chocolate after work
16. Ate Persian food and drank Persian chai
17. Met Catwoman, Wonder Woman, Superwoman, Marilyn Monroe and Charlie Chaplin
18. Joined the Justice League and shot alien spores with a laser gun
19. Laughed at shocked business colleagues as they got off some scary rides
20. Ate asam fish, kangkung, and roti at a former Prime Minister’s favourite restaurant
21. Went swimming and enjoyed the spa (when we had a little bit of time for a rest)
22. Encountered wildlife wondering around (kangaroos, kookaburras, rainbow lorikeets, currawongs, water dragons, turkeys)
23. Had a chocolate overdose of chocolate tapas and Spanish hot chocolate
24. Had a meeting under a tree
24. Had a meeting in a garden
24. Had a meeting in a boardroom
24. Had a meeting in a restaurant
24. Had a meeting surrounded by chocolate
The list goes on...
Very long hours of work, many meetings and site visits. What a bunch of dedicated and hard working MIDA colleagues. It was enjoyable week, and a great opportinuty to promote bilateral trade and investment.
Kiong (Wai Kiong CHAN)
AMBCQ Dinner to Commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Malaysia’s Formation
In 1963, four countries - British administered North Borneo, British administered Sarawak, the British territory of Singapore, and Malaya came together as equal partners to form Malaysia. At least that was the idea anyway, and with that Malaysia was born!!
On Friday 11th October 2013, we celebrated in the Ballroom of the Marriott Hotel Brisbane with a cocktail followed by dinner. The theme of our special commemorative dinner was “1963 James Bond” - IT’S TIME TO PARTY LIKE IT’S 1963! Gentlemen were asked to dress like James Bond (or Dr No!). For ladies, we suggested Jackie Kennedy, Brigitte Bardot, Audrey Hepburn, or Jean Shrimpton.
The gala dinner featured a dance floor with a selection of hits from the early 1960s through to present day hits including many 1963 numbers. AMBCQ members and supporters had a wonderful evening, and attendees some of the founding members of the Malaysian Air Force (Royal Australian Air Force personnel seconded to the fledgling Malaysian Air Force).
Thanks to all those who attended our AMBCQ Malaysia's 50th Birthday Party at the Marriott. This was a great event – and it was a fun evening of James bond lookalikes and glamorous 60s starlets. The dinner was conducted at short notice we had a very good turn out and great support from a number of members and corporate sponsors. We must especially thank the following members and supporters: Stu Myerscough from Air Asia, former expat Clem Grehan, Wan O’Farrell, Anu Saxena of HP, Petronas Australia, and Jerome Soosai of Philips Australia. We also acknowledge the support of Tourism Malaysia, which was a major supporter of the event. We had a very successful and fun night, a fitting event to celebrate this important, but overlooked, milestone in Malaysia's history.
Kiong (Wai Kiong CHAN)
Visit to the Malaysian Consulate (Agriculture Malaysia and MIDA) in Sydney
AWe had a couple of meetings with the Agriculture Counsellor Mr Rudy Khairuddin (pictured having lunch with us after the meeting. It was also his birthday), and also the Deputy Director of The Malaysian Investment Development Authority (MIDA) in Australia Mr Gulam Muszairi. Both were nearing the end of their term in Australia, and we have had a very good working relationship with them.
Kiong (Wai Kiong CHAN)
2013 Australia Malaysia Ball
This year's Australia Malaysia Ball was another resounding success. We celebrated at our usual venue, the Grand Ballroom of the Stamford Plaza Hotel in Brisbane. Official guests at the 2013 Ball included:
Ms Jane Prentice MP, Federal Member for Ryan
Mayor Karen Williams, Mayor of Redland City Council
Mayor Pam Parker, Mayor Logan City Council
Cr Vicki Howard, BCC Councilor for Central Ward
Cr Matthew Bourke, BCC Councilor for Jamboree Ward
Cr Norm Wyndham, BCC Councilor for McDowall Ward
Cr Fiona King, BCC Councilor for Marchant Ward
Cr Margaret De Wit, BCC Councilor for Pullenvale
Dr Peter Yeoh OAM and Mrs Alice Yeoh (Malaysian business people and our patrons)
Ms Jackie Trad MP, Member for South Brisbane
Mr Steven Minnikin MP, Member for Chatsworth and Assistant Minister for Public Transport
Mr Michael Latter MP, Member for Waterford
Mr Michael Pucci MP, Member for Logan
Mr Anthony Shorten MP, Member for Algester
Mr Mark Boothman MP, Member for Albert
Mr Mark Stewart MP, Member for Sunnybank
We asked our bagpiper to dedicate this year’s Auld Lang Syne to Malaysia’s High Commissioner to Australia, His Excellency Dato’ Salman Ahmad who was flying out of Australia that same evening to take up the post of Ambassador to Germany. The piping of this year's Auld Lang Syne was particularly apt given that His Excellency was at that point in time still within Australian airspace but was about to leave Australia.
AMBCQ members and guests sang Australia’s Royal Anthem ‘God Save the Queen’, tand he national anthems following which the Master invited the AMBCQ President to say Ante Coenam Grace.
Jerome Soosai was selected as the AMBCQ Member of the Year in recognition of his contribution to bilateral business. Ben Mok won the AMBCQ Young Member of the Year for his outstanding work in supporting the business council. We also took the opportunity to make presentations to our corporate members who have given so much support over the years. Entertainment was provided by Brisbane band Rattlesnake Eggs. It was a great evening for all attendees!
Kiong (Wai Kiong CHAN)
Hosting the Finnish Ambassador
11th September 2013
In conjunction with the Nordic Forum and International Circle and with the support of the ABF and the AMBCQ, we had the great privilege of hosting a special dinner in honour of the Finnish Ambassador. Our guests consisted of Guest of Honour the Finnish Ambassador, the Finnish Honorary Consul, AMBCQ members and various Nordic and other stakeholders in Queensland.
Here is the speech I prepared for the dinner:
Good evening Your Excellency, ladies and gentlemen.
We are greatly honoured this evening to enjoy the company of Ambassador Patokallio. I’d like to begin by highlighting the strong linkages between Finland and Australia. Our two countries are bound by the many tens of thousands of Finns who migrated here, and their numerous descendants. In fact our own family boasts strong Finnish links, and our children Ilkka, Ilmi and Alvar all have Finnish names.
This evening I am representing the International Circle and Shona is representing the Nordic Forum. Part of the objectives of the Nordic Forum is to work at all levels to promote and foster Australia’s linkages with the Nordic countries.
Australia’s links to Finland and indeed to the Nordic region is dare I say often overlooked by Federal, State and Local governments. There are several reasons for this, which I will outline and briefly address:
A tendency by all levels of Australian governments to emphasise our trade links with Asia seemingly at the expense of Europe and other regions – To some extent this is valid because the Asia Pacific region is projected to be the engine of global economic growth well into this century. However, this position misses a crucial point – that to ignore, underemphasise or overlook our trade relations with Europe and the Nordic countries and elsewhere is tantamount to ‘missing the forest for the trees’. The Nordic countries are highly productive, and highly innovative. Finland alone has been the source of highly impressive technological and educational and social development.
A tendency in Australia to overplay our Asian-ness and underplay our European heritage - All levels of government in Australia seem to miss the point that Australian culture and values share far more in common with Europe and North America than with Asia. Indeed I cannot think of even one country in Asia that regards Australia as culturally part of the Asian region. In our pursuit of trying desperately to somehow become 'Asians', we have driven a programme of Asia-literacy, we have embarked on emphasising Asian languages such as Chinese and Japanese, and we have steadily abandoned the teaching of European languages. Whilst this is on the surface a good idea, little do we Australians realise that the sheer complexity of the Chinese language means that current attempts to teach the language in some schools has amounted to very little. The teaching of languages should also not be regarded as a ‘zero-sum game’ and hence the abandonment of European languages is short-sighted.
A tendency for governments to ignore communities with good social behaviour and to reward and give funding and recognition to those who sometimes exhibit the opposite behaviour. The problem with migrants from Nordic countries is that their behaviour is generally exemplary – too good for their own good. Their willingness to integrate and assimilate, and their tendency not to break the law or commit crime, and their tendency to be socially appropriate and responsible means that Nords and their descendants receive very little government recognition or support.
A tendency for governments to view non-European migrants as potential voting blocs ruled or led by ‘community leaders’ – Again Australian federal, state and local governments seem far more interested in interacting and supporting non-European migrant communities even the rich and successful non-European ones. If we were to compare and contrast two recent community festivals – the Scandinavian Festival, and the Taiwan Festival, we can see this inconsistency in action. The Scandinavian Festival which represented five countries hardly attracted any political leaders – apart from a state level Assistant Minister and perhaps a City Councillor. In contrast, the Taiwan Festival which represents only one country attracted numerous very senior political leaders from Federal, State and Local levels. Yet there are far more Queenslanders and Australians with Nordic heritage than there are Queenslanders and Australians with Taiwanese heritage. I picked the Taiwanese example only because these two festivals were held less than 10 km apart and at a similar time. The same can be said of Muslim festivals, African festivals, Indian festivals, Vietnamese festivals, Chinese festivals and other non-European community events.
What do these phenomena mean to us in the Nordic community in Australia? I would suggest that it points to a gap or a disjoint between citizenry and government, and between policy and fairness, and between performance and reward, and between patriotism and government support – such that the ones who perform are ignored and do not get the rewards.
The Nordic Forum and the International Circle will continue to engage at strategic levels to emphasise and communicate the importance and benefits of relations with Nordic countries and with Nordic communities in Australia.
Kiong (Wai Kiong CHAN)
Governor's Reception for RECP International Delegates in Brisbane
I was invited by Her Excellency the Governor of Queensland, H.E. Penelope Wensley AC to attend a reception at Government House for delegates attending the latest round of trade negotiations pertaining to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership held in Brisbane. Delegates came from Japan, China, India, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, and many other countries and included senior ASEAN officials such as Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN for ASEAN Economic Community, H.E. Dr. Lim Hong Hin. We received a warm welcome by Her Excellency, and were treated to a lovely evening of drinks, canapés and mingling in the reception room and also on the veranda.
The event allowed me to reconnect with DFAT staff from Canberra, some of whom I got to know quite well over a number of years due to my involvement in the then AANZFTA and MAFTA free trade negotiation discussions. It was nice to see RCEP negotiations being co-chaired by one of DFAT’s top negotiators Mike Mugliston, a person of steely resolve whom I formed a very positive opinion of during the MAFTA negotiations.
Kiong (Wai Kiong CHAN)
Hosting the Indonesian Ambassador
In conjunction with the International Circle and the Australian Institute of Strategic and International Studies, we had the great privilege of hosting a special dinner in honour of the Indonesian Ambassador to Australia, His Excellency Mr Nadjib Riphat Kesoema. Mr Ambassador was accompanied by his wife Mrs Nino Nadjib Riphat, as well as First Secretary and acting Trade Attache Mr Denny Lesmana, and Third Secretary, Information and Socio-Cultural Affairs Mr Sezargerry Sumardi. Over a specially commissioned private dinner comprising of various Indonesian dishes, attendees listened to the Ambassador’s views on various issues.
The dinner was hosted by Ms Shona Leppänen-Gibson, Chairman of the Australian Institute of Strategic and International Studies and Co-Chair of the Asia Business Forum and Mr Wai Kiong Chan, Chairman of the International Circle. The event allowed guests to engage with the Indonesian Ambassador in an intimate setting and was particularly significant given that the Indonesia-Australia relationship is arguably one of the most important of all of Australia’s foreign relations.
Mr Chan highlighted that the Australia Indonesia relationship goes back several hundred years, with the early contact between Indonesian fishermen and Australian indigenous communities of Northern Australia, as well as the early European exploration of the Australian coast by Indonesian-based Dutch explorers. Mr Chan also raised the significance of Indonesian influence in ancient times for example during the Majapahit Empire, where under its famous Prime Minister Gajah Mada, the Majapahit Empire influenced the entire archipelago.
Other issues that were discussed include the significance of bilateral trade and investment between Indonesia and Australia, and of the strategic importance of food security. Ambassador Nadjib highlighted the enormous size of the ASEAN market and the size of the middle class in Indonesia. The significant presence of many international brands and large international retailers in Indonesia pointed to as yet little explored opportunities for Australian businesses and investors. We also discussed the issue of export of cattle and ensuring the availability of products such as beef. Also discussed were the negative externalities of people smuggling by transnational criminals and the threat of people smuggling to the national security of Australia and Indonesia.
The Australian Institute of Strategic and International Studies praised Indonesia for its strong commitment to democracy and the rule of law, pointing out that democracy brought the added benefit of business confidence and economic growth.
Another topic that generated great interest was the position of women in Indonesia. The International Circle pointed out that Indonesia has had a strong traditional heritage of recognising the important role of women, and cultures such as the Minangkabau are renowned as strongly matriarchal and where women often took the lead in business and other aspects of life. The recognition of the crucial role of women in parts of Indonesia serves as a reminder that other countries including Australia can benefit from placing greater emphasis on women in leadership.
Panel Discussion with Australia's Foreign Minister Senator the Hon. Bob Carr
7th May 2013
Our 2013 event with the Senator the Hon. Bob Carr, Australia's Foreign Minister was a highlight for all members and guests who attended. We also hosted another special guest, the Hon. Bernie Ripoll MP, the then Parliamentary Secretary to the Treasurer and Parliamentary Secretary for Small Business. The significant positions they both held and the high degree of relevance of their portfolios to AMBCQ members meant that the presence of both gentlemen at our event was of great interest to members of our Business Council.
Foreign Minister Carr covered a wide range of topics in his speech - ASEAN, MAFTA, US-Australia and US-China relations, the Asian Century, Australia's position on the Security Council, Australia's economic resilience and many more topics. And of course, he had some lovely stories to share with us regarding Malaysia, as his wife Helena is Malaysian-born. He is a great speaker and the depth and rigour of his analysis and his knowledge is of course impressive. But you would expect no less from a leader of his calibre, a former Premier of New South Wales and current Foreign Minister.
Bernie Ripoll also made a great speech, speaking about some of his recent experiences representing the Australian Government at the Asian Development Bank meetings in India. He brought up the issue of Australia's economic resilience and spoke about what Australia is doing right in an international context.
Both of our guests participated in a discussion panel with Kiong and I toward the end of the event, and we discussed a series of strategic and international issues, focusing on Australia's trade agreements, Malaysia, US relations, and of course China. It was a robust and insightful discussion, and much appreciated by the audience. Senator Carr and Mr Ripoll were very generous with their time and spoke to many of the guests before the official event started and stayed until the end to hear from them as well. The AMBCQ presented Senator Carr with a gift - a replica antique map from 1680 crafted by master map maker Edwin Clark. The map shows some of the gaps in knowledge that were around in that era, and how much time and technology has advanced our knowledge of the world. We also presented Bernie with a gift - another replica antique map crafted by Edwin, this time the 1823 Oxley map, which is the first map of Brisbane, made by John Oxley in the earliest days of European contact. Bernie is the member for Oxley and was thus delighted to receive it.
Rather than write too much about the event, we posted a video to provide excerpts of the speeches from the event. It is available below, or you can visit our AMBCQ YouTube Channel. It was a truly great event, a privilege to be involved with our panellists.
Wai Kiong CHAN and Shona Leppänen-Gibson
Parkinson Ward Dragon Boat Festival
AMBCQ’s boating team the Water Dragons have done us proud once again. We always compete cleanly and approach each training session and race as a fun and happy activity. We also tend to do rather well, and finished third at the 2013 Brisbane City Council Parkinson Ward Dragon Boat Festival.
Kiong (Wai Kiong CHAN)