In an address filled with both humour and consequential ideas, Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim spoke frankly about the challenges that confront the region and how Australia and his country could continue to ensure peace and prosperity.

Malaysian Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has called on Australia and Malaysia to work together to shaping a more cooperative and secure region in a major address at The Australian National University (ANU).

Delivering the 2024 Gareth Evans Oration, and speaking to an audience of dignitaries, ministers, diplomatic corps, academics, media and eager students, Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim urged hope in response to the challenges of our time.

“It has become an understatement to say that we now live in unsettled times, a sense of foreboding has seeped into discourse on the future of our region,” Mr Ibrahim said.

“This stands in stark contrast to how we spoke about the Asia Pacific at the turn of the century.”

While acknowledging key milestones and history within the Malaysia-Australia relationship, such as the elevation of bilateral relations to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and Malaysia’s place as Australia’s 10th largest trading partner, Mr Ibrahim warned against complacency or pessimism.

“For hard-headed realists, it has become fashionable to assert that major power rivalry has become a structural feature for regional affairs, and nothing can be done to moderate it,” he said. “I do not accept this fatalistic view of the world.

“Working based on our respective strengths and unique relationships with the major countries in this region, we can achieve something of profound consequence for the Asia Pacific.

“I believe that Malaysia and Australia have a duty to try the upmost to encourage the United States, China and other major players in the Asia Pacific to conduct themselves in a manner that is conducive to the enhancement of regional cooperation and economic integration.”

Prime Minister Ibrahim pointed to Australia’s responses to China and interactions in international organisations such as the United Nations, where he argued there has been of inconsistencies in the application of international law and norms by Western nations, particularly in response to the ongoing conflict in Gaza, as key areas where we can drive deeper cooperation.

“Ultimately, our shared objective should be to foster a region that is resilient to power shifts while preserving every country’s autonomy, regardless of size,” he said.

“We must invest in institutions that will enable us to adapt to change peacefully, without denying any nation have their rightful place in the global community.”

Malaysian PM Anwar Ibrahim addresses the crowd at ANU. Photo: David Fanner/ANU

Prime Minister Ibrahim recognised the prominent and long-term role ANU had in producing leaders who may be able to shape a more cooperative region.

“The Australian government vested the ANU with a vital mission of broadening and deepening this country’s understanding of what we now call the Asia Pacific, thereby helping to define Australia’s place in global affairs,” he said.

“Almost eight decades later, the study of Australia’s external strategic environment is evidently being spearheaded on this campus.”

Ending the oration, he quoted Indigenous Australian poet and activist, Oodgeroo Noonuccal’s poem A Song of Hope: “Look up, my people. The dawn is breaking, the world is waking to a bright new day”.

Watch the full 2024 Gareth Evans Oration at ANU TV.

Top image: Malaysian PM Anwar Ibrahim delivers the Gareth Evans Oration at ANU. Photo: Jamie Kidston/ANU

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