Next week I am visiting Lebanon for discussions on transport, infrastructure and joint business opportunities.
My visit to Lebanon will be the first undertaken by a Federal Minister in more than a decade and follows the first ever visit of a Lebanese President to Australia in April 2012.
The last visit by a Federal Minister took place in 2001 when Phillip Ruddock was the Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs.
Australia and Lebanon share a warm and productive bilateral relationship that is underpinned by strong community and people-to-people links.
The approximately 350,000 Australians of Lebanese descent have made significant contributions to Australian society in government, politics, business as well as sporting and cultural life, including NSW Governor Professor Marie Bashir, and the bilateral relationship today encompasses cooperation in a number of fields including defence. Efforts to build our trade relationship are also being spearheaded by the recently established Australia Lebanon Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Australian Lebanese Chamber of Commerce.
Australia also strongly supports the humanitarian work of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) in Lebanon.
While in Lebanon, I plan to meet with the Lebanese Minister for Public Works, Ghazi Aridi, whom I first met during his visit to Australia in April this year.
There is significant potential for Australian involvement in port construction and expansion, aviation and rail and I will be discussing these opportunities with the Minister.
I also plan to call on President Michel Suleiman, Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Speaker of the Parliament Nabih Berri during my visit.