Malaysian PM urges ‘doubling-down’ on ASEAN efforts during ANU address

The Malaysian Prime Minister addresses ANU.


Prime Minister of Malaysia, the Honourable Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim discussed the critical role ASEAN plays in regional security and the special relationship Malaysia shares with Australia during his public address at the ANU 2024 Gareth Evans Oration. His address comes after his official visit to Australia for the 2024 ASEAN Special Summit and the annual Australia-Malaysia Leaders Meeting.   

He was joined on campus by Australian Foreign Minister, Senator the Honourable Penny Wong, who highlighted her aspirations to further enhance Australia-Malaysia relations as well as her personal connection to the country and its people.  

“I am hopeful that this next stage in Australia-Malaysia relationships is one where we see further cooperation across so many areas,” the foreign minister said in her opening address.  

While providing insightful commentary on regional affairs and stability, the conversation turned to China and the future security of the region. Prime Minister Anwar urged mutual respect for rising powers and emphasised his concerns over "adverse" reactions to China and the country’s growing technology, economy, and military. 

“It has become an understatement to say that we now live in unsettled times. A sense of foreboding has taken seed into the discourse on the future of our region,” he said. 

Prime Minister Anwar emphasised the importance of unions such as ASEAN amidst the prospect of regional instability.  

“There is bound to be cynicism about the value of ASEAN in a more divided region, but it is precisely why chasms are growing that we need to double-down on ASEAN. 

“Without it, [ASEAN] the region will be principally dictated by the calculations and designs of the major powers, unfettered by the need to account for a more diverse range of interests and viewpoints,” he said. 

Gareth Evans address the audience during the 2024 Gareth Evans Oration.

Image: The Honourable Gareth Evans addresses the lecture theatre. 

Moderator of the session, former ANU Chancellor, and Oration honouree, the Distinguished Honorary Professor Gareth Evans AC, took the opportunity to commend PM Anwar’s ability to walk a "tightrope" between our two neighbourhood giants, China, and the United States.  

Despite the severity of topics discussed, the Prime Minister’s visit was a welcome opportunity for the Australian National University and the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific. ANU Chancellor the Hon. Julie Bishop, took the opportunity to highlight the exemplary work of the University and the College in advancing Australia’s engagement and understanding of the Asia-Pacific region.  

“The Australian National University established the ANU Malaysian Institute in 2016 which has already carried out significant research in Malaysian history, economics, politics and law and we have just witnessed the signing of a MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) between our university and the Malaysian Institute of Strategic International studies (ISIS),” she said.  

The Hon. Julie Bishop invites honourable attendees for a group photo.

Image: ANU Chancellor the Hon Julie Bishop stands for a photo with the Malaysian Prime Minister. 

This was a sentiment shared by Prime Minister Anwar who further complimented the tremendous scholarly outputs from across ANU and reaffirmed the University’s place as a ‘leading centre’ for Asian and Pacific studies before taking questions from the audience.  

For Mathew Lillywhite, a student at the University, the chance to ask the Prime Minister of Malaysia a question during the Q and A panel about international politics was a "once-in-a-lifetime" opportunity.

“It is a really great thing for the College and the University’s international standing to attract foreign leaders,” he said.

“It is an amazing opportunity to have a Southeast Asian Prime Minister, or any world leader coming to Australia, but then, choosing the ANU to come speak and give students the opportunity to be able to ask questions is very exciting.” 

University student Mathew Lillywhite was thrilled to ask a question to the Malaysian Prime Minister.

Image: ANU student Mathew Lillywhite in attendance at the 2024 Gareth Evans Oration.

College Dean, Professor Helen Sullivan, attended the Oration and was thrilled to see so many students and members of the College community during the event.  

“The diversity of our students always really relishes this opportunity to engage with political leaders,” she said. 

“Events like this are critical for the College because we are one of the very few places in Australia, and the region, where Prime Ministers come and are prepared to engage with our students.” 

The presence of Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim marks the first time the Gareth Evans Oration (public policy lecture) has been delivered by a foreign prime minister and reaffirms the central role the Australia National University plays in the Asia-Pacific region through the ANU College of Asia and the Pacific and regional research institutes such as the ANU Malaysia Institute, a leading academic hub for Malaysian affairs at the College and Australia-wide. 

Attendees listen to the 2024 Gareth Evans Oration.

Image: Esteemed guests, staff and students from the University eagerly listen to Prime Minister Anwar's address. 


By Cooper Williams, ANU College of Asia and the Pacific.