This year is exceptional in the history of Australian-Swedish bilateral relations. In March our eldest daughter, Crown Princess Victoria, travelled to this country as the Patron of the campaign “Swedish Style in Australia" - a large presentation of Swedish design, music, fashion, gastronomy and sustainable environment.
Also, Prime Minister Göran Persson visited Australia and met with Prime Minister John Howard and other members of the federal Government.
In September an Australian follow-up, “Australian Style Vibes", showed the best of Australian design in Stockholm. And just a week before I left for this State Visit I had the pleasure of receiving the Speaker of your House of Representatives, Mr. David Hawker, in an audience at the Royal Palace of Stockholm.
This intensive exchange of visits hardly proves the fact that Australia and Sweden are geographically very far apart. Instead it underlines our close ties and fruitful cooperation in numerous fields.
Our relations are long standing and actually date back to 1770 when Captain James Cook stepped ashore at Botany Bay. In his company was a Swedish scientist, Daniel Solander, who worked with Joseph Banks.
During my previous State Visit to Australia, in 1982, I found out that Mr. Solander was more well known here than in Sweden. His name followed me around and I even had the honour of dedicating his memorial in the Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens.
Tomorrow, the Queen and I will admire the “Banks Florilegium“ at the Australian National University. These are beautiful engravings and watercolours of Australian plants which were collected by Solander and Banks and named according to the system of Solander´s teacher and mentor, the world famous Swedish scientist Carl von Linnaeus.
The photo exhibition "Herbarium Amoris - a tribute to Carl von Linnaeus"- will have its first showing in the Southern hemisphere when we visit Adelaide in a few days. In 2007 we will celebrate the 300th Anniversary of Linnaeus birth all over the world.
During the State Visit in 1982, I visited numerous places lincluding Canberra, Melbourne, Sydney, Alice Springs and Perth. I returned to Sweden with many good memories. Unfortunately, the Queen was unable to accompany me, as she was expecting our third child at the time. This time the Queen and I look forward to seeing other parts as well.
We will be able to see places of great natural beauty and rich cultural heritage. Walks in the Uluru and Kata Tjuta National Park and meetings with local authorities and Aboriginal groups are included in our programme. We will also visit the famous Barossa Valley of wines.
Talking about wines, I cannot help telling you that my own pond for birds, at the Stenhammar Estate, was partly created by the Australian wine industry. Not that it is filled with Shiraz or Pinot, but the Banrock Station Vineyards, which is not only involved in winemaking, but also in environmental conservation supports the Swedish Wetlands Conservation Fund, which in its turn has helped me dig my pond!
From our daughter, Crown Princess Victoria, we have heard not only about your warm hospitality, Mr. Governor General and Mrs. Jeffrey, but also about the warm reception and sympathy She met everywhere.
It is a fact that we Swedes feel welcome in Australia. No wonder that Swedish students attend Australian universities in record members. They are, of course, also attracted by your wonderful nature, beaches, hiking and bush walking.
The working holiday visas allow them to live and work here for a year. I would like to take invite more Australian students to come to Sweden! When studies allow we can teach them ice-skating and skiing and how to enjoy our long, bright summer nights.
I wish to take this opportunity to congratulate You to the two Australian Nobel Prizes laureates in medicine this year. Professor Barry Marshall and Dr. Robin Warren will receive their Prizes in Stockholm on the 10th of December. They are worthy followers of Dr. Peter Doherty, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1996.
Finally I wish to say, once again, that the Queen and I are most grateful for the invitation to visit Australia. We know there is a lot of work behind this extensive and exciting programme. Thank you, everyone, for all your efforts. We appreciate it all very much and look forward to this busy week.
Skål and thank you!